The ‘Age of the Cognitive Machines’ is the most drastic economic transition since the Second Industrial Revolution. This transition is driven by the confluence of multiple technological innovations –such as advanced robotics, machine learning, and the exponential growth of computation capabilities and digital communication bandwidth– which result in the ‘Rise of Intelligent Machines’, understanding ‘Machines’ as a concept beyond its physical connotations, and leveraging a change of paradigm in machine intelligence, an evolution from ‘Turing Machines’ to ‘Inference Machines.’ The new paradigm is unleashing extraordinary progress in a wide range of applications, from healthcare to transportation and even the justice system; at the same time, these new forms of intelligence are making decisions in complex ways that escape the limits of human comprehension.
This transition may result in rapid increases of productivity of goods and services, shifts in the structure of our societies and cultures, major disruptions for global commerce and the balance of international power (economic and military), a paradoxical reduction in the effectiveness of human communication, and growing income gaps driven by technological employment disruption and the nature of wealth creation. According to the Oxford Martin School, approximately 47% of total current US employment is at high risk of being impacted by computerization over the next two decades, in what would be the fastest rate of change of the labor market in the history of humanity. This process would require a significant re-design of economic and social policies together with the transformation of existing education systems, such as the foundations of primary and secondary education and the role of the university.
Beyond the economic opportunities and challenges posed by the Age of Cognitive Machines, it may transform the role of the human species –and its current organizational structures–, and pose significant risks for the systemic viability of western democracies in a world of increasing complexity driven by intelligent machines, requiring a new paradigm of national and global governance. At a time when smart artificial agents, smartphones, smart-homes, smart-cities, wearables, factories, etc., are becoming increasingly omnipresent, shall we also expect technological progress in artificial intelligence to result in the emergence of smart-governments and nations?