Category Archives: 3. News You Can Use

AI Is Here, Like it or Not

New technology has always made workers nervous about being displaced, and those in blue collar jobs have traditionally taken the biggest hit. However, recent innovations have made it clear that white collar workers—people who work in offices—will be the next wave of workers to be supplanted by artificial intelligence.

The reaction to this reality is divided into two camps. Some who study artificial intelligence believe it will add great value to humankind by providing a utopian grab bag of life-enhancing functions, from curing diseases to fixing climate change. Others warn that AI is a potential risk to our very existence, with robots overtaking human intelligence, and consequently, our ability to control them.

But the author of AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order thinks both schools of thought are off base. Kai-Fu Lee, in an essay published by the Wall Street Journal, writes that AI technology can enable societies to actually better care for humans.

The reason is straightforward. Although AI is predicted to take over many tasks, from driving a car to diagnosing illnesses or providing customer service, an automaton will never possess human empathy or social skills: A robot or an algorithm is incapable of caring for an infant or the elderly, Lee says. Nor can AI think creatively or make goals.

Jobs that require repetition and no human interaction like an insurance adjuster or fast food preparer will very likely cease to exist, Lee writes. Then there’s a middle ground, where AI will assist rather than take over. Doctors may have help from AI to diagnose, for example, and bartenders may not actually pour drinks but will interact with customers. However, AI will never replace a CEO or a social worker, an attorney or a hair stylist.

Still, Lee warns that the upheavals that AI will likely trigger may create deep chasms in society, requiring leaders to devise new ways to sustain humanity.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the potential upheavals society may face as AI replaces more and more jobs?
  2. Beyond those mentioned above, which jobs will remain safe from being taken over by artificial intelligence?
  3. Which skills will help workers survive the inevitable impact of AI on the job market?





Is Music Piracy Stealing?

Despite inroads made by on-demand services such as Spotify and Apple Music that require users to pay for tunes, 38 percent of listeners download music illegally, according to a recent report conducted by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. These illegal downloads not only infringe on copyrights, they also deprive musicians, composers, and production companies of royalties.The majority of illegal downloads are committed through a technology called “stream ripping,” which allows users to create an audio file from practically any streaming platform, including YouTube. Yet despite efforts to curb such practices, the piracy continues.

Those who perform these downloads say intellectual property such as copyrighted music should be in the public domain, and that stream ripping is a victimless crime. Downloading a digital file is not the same as stealing a car or a smartphone because the original property remains intact and may be used by its original owner, they allege. In fact, piracy can even enhance the creators’ gain by exposing their music to a larger audience, advocates of illegal downloading say.

On the other side are those who look at music piracy as pure theft, depriving the original owners of reaping the financial benefits of their creative work. This argument revolves around the notion that piracy removes the incentive to create, similar to the way in which a drug company would have little reason to develop new vaccines and medicines if it could not then sell those products for a profit. Others point out that not protecting musicians ends up costing everyone more, including those who pay to legally obtain the work.

Both sides make a point, but which is the most ethical side of this ongoing debate?

Discussion Questions

  1. Is it true that stream ripping is a victimless crime?
  2. Should sites that provide stream ripping be shut down? Why or why not?
  3. Can music piracy be compared to outright theft? Explain your answer.



Influencer Marketing: Cool or Not So Much?

Influencer marketing—the practice of hiring personalities with a large social media following to sell a product or service (think Colin Kaepernick)—is running into some ethics walls, and at least one major manufacturer is drawing a line in the sand.

Unilever, maker of such varied products as Hellman’s mayonnaise and Dove shampoo, has drawn attention to the fact that many influencers are using fake bots to ramp up their numbers, especially those with 50,000-100,000 followers. Companies that track influencer marketing claim that advertisers are paying these influencers millions of dollars a month for fake followers.

This fraud has marketers seething and they are calling the practice not just misleading, but corrupt. Buying followers is simply not the same as individuals choosing to follow an influencer, says Keith Weed of Unilever, and he’s calling for social media platforms to increase their oversight to clean up the problem.

The dramatic rise in influencer marketing makes the issue all the more important. A survey conducted for the Association of National Advertisers found that out of 158 marketers, 75% used influencer marketing, and of those, nearly half intend to up their spending next year.

Critical Thinking Discussion Questions

  1. How do you think consumers would react if they were more aware that some influencers claim to have as many as 20% more followers than they actually do?
  2. Why do you think influencer marketing has become so popular in recent years?
  3. How might marketers encourage consumers to use consumer evaluation rather than rely on influencers?