Artificial Intelligence - Who Is Martin Ford?


Martin Ford (active from 2009 until the present) is a futurist and author who focuses on artificial intelligence, automation, and the future of employment.

Rise of the Robots, his 2015 book, was named the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year, as well as a New York Times bestseller.

Artificial intelligence, according to Ford, is the "next killer app" in the American economy.

Ford highlights in his writings that most economic sectors in the United States are becoming more mechanized.

  • The transportation business is being turned upside down by self-driving vehicles and trucks.
  • Self-checkout is transforming the retail industry.
  • The hotel business is being transformed by food preparation robots.

According to him, each of these developments will have a significant influence on the American workforce.

Not only will robots disrupt blue-collar labor, but they will also pose a danger to white-collar employees and professionals in fields such as medicine, media, and finance.

  • According to Ford, the majority of this job is similarly regular and can be automated.
  • Under particular, middle management is in jeopardy.
  • According to Ford, there will be no link between human education and training and automation vulnerability in the future, just as worker productivity and remuneration have become unrelated phenomena.

Artificial intelligence will alter knowledge and information work as sophisticated algorithms, machine-learning tools, and clever virtual assistants are incorporated into operating systems, business software, and databases.

Ford’s viewpoint has been strengthened by a 2013 research by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of the Oxford University Martin Program on the Impacts of Future Technology and the Oxford University Engineering Sciences Department.

Frey and Osborne’s study, done with the assistance of machine-learning algorithms, indicated that over half of 702 various types of American employment may be automated in the next 10 to twenty years.

Ford points out that when automation precipitates primary job losses in areas susceptible to computerization, it will also cause a secondary wave of job destruction in sectors that are sustained by them, even if they are themselves automation resistant.

  • Ford suggests that capitalism will not go away in the process, but it will need to adapt if it is to survive.
  • Job losses will not be immediately staunched by new technology jobs in the highly automated future.

Ford has advocated a universal basic income—or “citizens dividend”—as one way to help American workers transition to the economy of the future.

  • Without consumers making wages, he asserts, there simply won’t be markets for the abundant goods and services that robots will produce.
  • And those displaced workers would no longer have access to home owner ship or a college education.
  • A universal basic income could be guaranteed by placing value added taxes on automated industries.
  • The wealthy owners in these industries would agree to this tax out of necessity and survival.

Further financial incentives, he argues, should be targeted at individuals who are working to enhance human culture, values, and wisdom, engaged in earning new credentials or innovating outside the mainstream automated economy.

  • Political and sociocultural changes will be necessary as well.
  • Automation and artificial intelligence, he says, have exacerbated economic inequality and given extraordinary power to special interest groups in places like the Silicon Valley.
  • He also suggests that Americans will need to rethink the purpose of employment as they are automated out of jobs.

Work, Ford believes, will not primarily be about earning a living, but rather about finding purpose and meaning and community.

  • Education will also need to change.
  • As the number of high-skill jobs is depleted, fewer and fewer highly educated students will find work after graduation.

Ford has been criticized for assuming that hardly any job will remain untouched by computerization and robotics.

  • It may be that some occupational categories are particularly resistant to automation, for instance, the visual and performing arts, counseling psychology, politics and governance, and teaching.
  • It may also be the case that human energies currently focused on manufacture and service will be replaced by work pursuits related to entrepreneurship, creativity, research, and innovation.

Ford speculates that it will not be possible for all of the employed Americans in the manufacturing and service economy to retool and move to what is likely to be a smaller, shallower pool of jobs.

In The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology, and the Economy of the Future (2009), Ford introduced the metaphor of “lights in a tunnel” to describe consumer purchasing power in the mass market.

A billion individual consumers are represented as points of light that vary in intensity corresponding to purchasing power.

An overwhelming number of lights are of middle intensity, corresponding to the middle classes around the world.

  • Companies form the tunnel. Five billion other people, mostly poor, exist outside the tunnel.
  • In Ford’s view, automation technologies threaten to dim the lights and collapse the tunnel.
  • Automation poses dangers to markets, manufacturing, capitalist economics, and national security.

In Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (2015), Ford focused on the differences between the current wave of automation and prior waves.

  • He also commented on disruptive effects of information technology in higher education, white-collar jobs, and the health-care industry.
  • He made a case for a new economic paradigm grounded in the basic income, incentive structures for risk-taking, and environmental sensitivity, and he described scenarios where inaction might lead to economic catastrophe or techno-feudalism.

Ford’s book Architects of Intelligence: The Truth about AI from the People Building It (2018) includes interviews and conversations with two dozen leading artificial intelligence researchers and entrepreneurs.

  • The focus of the book is the future of artificial general intelligence and predictions about how and when human-level machine intelligence will be achieved.

Ford holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan.

He earned an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

He is the founder and chief executive officer of the software development company Solution-Soft located in Santa Clara, California.

Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

Brynjolfsson, Erik; Workplace Automation.

Further Reading:

Ford, Martin. 2009. The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology, and the Economy of the Future. Charleston, SC: Acculant.

Ford, Martin. 2013. “Could Artificial Intelligence Create an Unemployment Crisis?” Communications of the ACM 56 7 (July): 37–39.

Ford, Martin. 2016. Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. New York: Basic Books.

Ford, Martin. 2018. Architects of Intelligence: The Truth about AI from the People Build￾ing It. Birmingham, UK: Packt Publishing

What Is Artificial General Intelligence?

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is defined as the software representation of generalized human cognitive capacities that enables the ...