Humans Need Not Apply

Jerry Kaplan Yale University Press, 256 pages, $35

A terrific balance between delightful stories and thoughtful analysis is found in Jerry Kaplan's relatively short book, "Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence." An entrepreneur and AI expert, Kaplan has done some serious thinking about how AI will transform business, jobs and, most interestingly, the law. The book glimmers with originality and verve. He starts from the idea that the technology creates "forged laborers" and "synthetic intellects" that will do the jobs of people. There is a deep look at the growing income inequality between a small cadre of Silicon Valley elites (himself included) and the rest.

Others have raised these issues, but Kaplan is unique in devising solutions. To the problem of skills not being well matched to the needs of businesses, he proposes a "job mortgage." Companies would agree to hire a person in return for a tax break; the person would take out a loan against the future income to pay for training. This way, educational institutions get clearer economic signals about what skills they should teach. To lessen income inequality, companies would get tax breaks if their shares are broadly owned. The American government would let people choose the firms where some of their Social Security (national pension) funds would be invested. Spreading stock ownership, Kaplan reckons, will diffuse the gains from companies that, using AI, make oodles of money but employ few.