The promotion of the e-commerce and the emergence of the sharing economy have had a profound impact on the work and life of humans. As of 2017, the value of China’s digital industrialization (basic layer), especially the information industry (mainly including the electronic information manufacturing, software service industry, and communication industry) has reached 6.2 trillion yuan. The scale of the industrial digitalization (extension layer), or the penetration of the digital economy into other non-information industries such as the smart manufacturing, Internet +, and modern agriculture has reached 21 trillion yuan. The quantitative change will lead to a qualitative change when it reaches the threshold. The above figures show that the digital economy has brought us significant changes gradually.
Do we need to worry about it if the digital economy become unprecedentedly powerful and the artificial intelligence replaces most of our jobs in the future? “Robots or other kinds of artificial intelligence can never replace humans. They will always serve humans,” said Chen Wenling, chief economist of China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE), in an interview with the “Economics”. She stressed that If we summarize the industrial revolution as the replacement and the help of machines for human physical labor, then we can say that the era of the digital economy or the digital revolution is the replacement and help of artificial intelligence for human mental work.
The first two industrial revolutions have passed for many years but they did not make the labor capacity of humans disappear. Instead, our works have become more efficient and sophisticated, and we are not afraid of the machines. The digital revolution is approaching and it will penetrate into many other areas of human life, but we do not need to be afraid of it.
Chen Wenling believes that even if the digital economy becomes almost perfect in the future, machines or artificial intelligence will not be able to replace human emotion and its role completely. It is possible that the digitalization will replace all human mental work but it will not be able to replace human emotion. For example, you can ask the robot for directions and it can give the correct answer as long as the program is set correctly. However, the volunteers on the street will not just help you with the direction but also offer you other help even if you did not ask. The works of many volunteers are directly related to emotional support, which can hardly be replaced by machines. Humans’ pursuit of good things is endless and trust and care are part of it, and this is something that no technology can replace.
Furthermore, Chen Wenling also pointed out that the digital economy will lead to revolutionary changes in social norm and governance in the future. For example, the way people exchange information has changed completely in today’s smart city and people will feel so terrible to lose their mobile phone than to lose their wallet. Apart from that, the shape of the city and the country will also undergo fundamental changes. Cities were the main theme of the past but in the era of rapid digital economic development, the domestic spatial layout will be dominated by urban agglomerations. The internet of things, internet, big data, cloud computing, cloud services, artificial intelligence, high-speed railway, highway and aviation networks will connect the city to the countryside.