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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt warned audiences at The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Summit in London this week that AI is an "existential risk" that could lead to "many, many, many, many people" being "harmed or killed."
But before a rogue AI has the chance to come after us all — or at least make our jobs redundant — humanity might already be preempting that dystopian eventuality by having fewer babies.
At the same event, Schmidt said that "we are not having enough children" to the point of a "demographic crisis where people who are my age are going to be taken care of by younger generations," as quoted by Fortune.
"In aggregate, all the demographics say there’s going to be a shortage of humans for jobs," Schmidt added. "Literally too many jobs and not enough people for at least the next 30 years."
His latest comments were in response to worries that AI could cause major job disruptions through automation. But since we're already having fewer babies, he seems to be saying that we'll need AI to step into the labor force — an unusual take on the matter that's bound to raise some eyebrows.
Tech leaders are clearly struggling with what to make of the potential job losses caused by the tech they're developing. Schmidt's successor Sundar Pichai, for instance, had very little to offer when pushed on the matter during a recent appearance on The Verge's Decoder podcast.
According to Schmidt, however, having job shortages be filled in with a more efficient AI is still a net positive in the long term, even if that means more mass layoffs in the near future.
"What really happens is that people like yourselves, in the business community and so forth, you’re about efficiency," Schmidt told the audience. "Ultimately there will be lots of job conflagration, right? Some jobs are created, some jobs are lost."
So what should a society do to prepare for this new future? Earlier this month, Schmidt argued that the AI industry will be better off regulating itself, thank you very much.
In other words, the government should sit this one out, despite the very real consequences the technology could have on the rest of us.
"I would much rather have the current companies define reasonable boundaries," Schmidt told NBC at the time. "There's no one in the government who could get it right."
It's true that as people across the world are choosing not to have kids while being crushed by crippling debt and other economic pressures, labor markets are expected to continue to shrink.
But is AI really the answer to widening job shortages? Schmidt appears to think so, but we're not convinced quite yet.