Our future with artificial intelligence: Friend or foe?

Nayland College alumnus and current Washington DC economist Kinley Salmon can now add ‘author’ to his list of achievements. He recently returned to his former college to launch his first book Jobs, Robots & Us.

Kinley’s book deals with the possible impact artificial intelligence is actually going to have on the future of New Zealand.  It argues that automation and job losses are not as scary or rapid as we are told and that the type of work that will prevail in our country depends upon how we decide to shape the future, as both individuals and groups. Jobs, Robots & Us also discusses two potential futures that could be aimed for in New Zealand.

“In my view, we have a window now in which we can still really shape the future we head towards… But that window in which we can still really influence things will close at some point, so it is critical we start trying to proactively shape the future now,” Mr Salmon said.

Initially, Kinley’s interest in artificial intelligence was sparked by “seeing some really impressive applications of it” and realising that it was something with the ability to improve our lives, but also that its use was something to be carefully considered.

Kinley’s decision to make the topics explored in his book specific to the future of New Zealand was mainly influenced by two things: Firstly, his awareness of the fact that both his future and the future of those close to him living in New Zealand will be affected by automation, and secondly, research from studies carried out in the United Kingdom and United States is assumed to also apply to the future of New Zealand, despite New Zealand being different to those places.

Nayland College had a more complex influence in the writing of Kinley’s book than just providing him with a “great” education and a hand in the building of his confidence. Kinley recalls a project at Nayland in which he read Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and watched the film Gattaca starring Ethan Hawke. “I was struck by how the future is often assumed to be worse than today, when in reality the future has tended to be much better than the past, at least on average, when you look at incomes, life expectancy, education and so on,” Mr Salmon said. 

Jobs, Robots & Us offers some clarity to those unsure of how New Zealand will be affected by the changes in our future regarding artificial intelligence and is a must-read for any Kiwi ready to take the wheel and shape the future of our country. 

Those interested in reading Kinley’s book can borrow a copy from the school library.

By student reporter Aleisha Smith