From Rural America to Silicon Valley—Making AI Serve Us All

June 25, 2020

Book Review by Kristen Cudd

There are two wildly divergent tales about artificial intelligence (AI) currently being told in American society. In one version of the story, AI is the destroyer of low- and middle-skill-level jobs. In the other, AI is the lynchpin to boosted productivity and a more relaxed lifestyle for professionals. Kevin Scott, author of Reprogramming the American Dream and Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, believes that neither of these versions of the story is accurate or complete. He thinks we are “in urgent need of a different story, a story of AI’s potential to create abundance for everyone and to help solve some of the world’s most vexing problems.” He asserts that AI is a “tool that empowers us to do more of what makes us essentially human.” This belief was the motivation behind writing the book.

The New American Dream

Originally coined by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book The Epic of America, “The American Dream” is an aspiration that says that all people, regardless of status or circumstance, can achieve “to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable.” AI, says Scott, could be just the technological advancement needed to level the playing field, reinvigorate our enthusiasm for The American Dream, and support all Americans in becoming their “fullest and best selves.”

Scott conveys that AI has the potential to help all Americans achieve greater prosperity and productivity, not just those with wealth and connections. AI must be developed in accordance with a set of policies that “democratize” AI. AI must be accessible to all individuals and all businesses so that this immense potential is not missed by those with limited resources. Rural Americans need access at the same level as Silicon Valley innovators. Scott acknowledges that AI, like all major technological advancements, will result in negative outcomes for some workers but he believes that the right policy, with an emphasis on accessibility, will mitigate those consequences as much as possible.

The Future of Work

We already encounter AI in our daily lives. Smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa and facial recognition software that tag photos on social media are prominent examples. This level of AI is programmed to be trained by the humans that use it to “perform very specific, narrow tasks.” Artificial General Intelligence is more humanlike and gives rise to the dystopian views of robots taking over the planet. It is important to compare the fears around AI to those we have experienced previously around other technological advancements. Manufacturing and agriculture automations gave rise to similar concerns over negative worker impacts. However, Scott believes that “the future of work will evolve in less extreme ways.” The human component of innovation and creativity will lead to AI creating new opportunities for society rather than take them away.

Kevin Scott is uniquely positioned to straddle the line between the pro- and anti-AI arguments. Having grown up in rural Virginia, he knows first hand the impact of technological advancements on blue collar America. Far too frequently, those without access to higher education and technology like broadband and home computers are left behind in the wave of such advancements. Scott became a living example of The American Dream, rising above his underprivileged roots to become one of the highest level workers in all of Silicon Valley. His arguments are passionate and rooted in his fervent hope that AI will be the tool that bridges socioeconomic gaps and usher in a new era of The American Dream. Although Scott argues that the government should play a major role in ensuring AI is accessible to all, there are insufficient details to explain what that would look like.

Reprogramming the American Dream gives a heartfelt and optimistic view of how all Americans could be positively impacted by wide scale AI integration.


Kristen Cudd is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. She spent seven years in publishing working with business book authors. She loves sharing her viewpoint as a contributing writer for various publications across multiple niches. Her other reviews can be found here.


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