TITLE: Northern Ireland is hurtling towards an A.I. future that few are prepared for…

Ben M is a slugger reader from Dublin

Most people will have seen recent headlines that Artificial Intelligence is rapidly accelerating in development, but fewer people seem fully aware of many of the implications. Two developments in recent weeks seem very pertinent to Northern Ireland. Firstly, one of the leading AI developers, OpenAI, debuted a tool for AI to make photorealistic video, without the need for human involvement. Secondly, a Swedish company called Klarna got rid of 700 support centre staff and replaced them with AI from the same company, OpenAI.

TV and movie production, call centre and other remote support roles are all huge employers in Northern Ireland. HBO spent $1.095 billion to produce ‘Game of Thrones’. A huge chunk of that was a cash injection into the Northern Ireland economy. Now AI is on the brink of producing video of similar quality for a tiny fraction of that cost.

Take a look at the video generation tool called ‘Sora’ in action. If it continues the trajectory the technology has been on, it will be able to produce episodes of GOT, almost indistinguishable from the real thing, probably within 18 months or so.

YouTube video

Not only was Klarna able to replace 700 support workers with AI. It said by all its metrics for speed and customer satisfaction, the AI performed better.

AI is also rapidly improving robotics. Amazon’s Digit humanoid robot was introduced in late 2023. While it’s cutting edge for now, other humanoid robots slated for 2024 look a big step up. In particular in their ability to train themselves independently by observation of people or training videos. How far away are we from a general-purpose humanoid robot capable of most unskilled or semi-skilled work, and costing a fraction per hour of the minimum wage? Who knows, but I suspect the number of years is in single digits.

YouTube video

When some people see news like this they try and reassure themselves that automation has always created new jobs. You don’t see secretarial typists, horse carriage riders, or telephone exchange operators anymore, right?

The flaw in this argument is that the AI & robots will be able to do all the new jobs too, but they’ll just cost a few pennies where humans were used to getting paid a pound, euro, or dollar.

All of this used to sound like science fiction to people, and I’d guess it still does to many. However, all the evidence suggests it is rapidly becoming a reality, and we’ll very soon have to deal with the consequences.





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