Let me start off with this video; it’s Trevor Noah talking on Comedy Central’s – The Daily Show about Robot Apocalypse – The Robots Are Coming For Our Jobs!
Under the humor he does make a very valid point, something that people have been discussing since AI became the ‘in’ thing – If robots do everything, what will we do?
Automation has always been at the forefront of human development, whether it’s automation to drive efficiency (reduce error), productivity (make more) or capability (make better). It’s always been happening – in different forms.
Advancement in technology will not stop, it will always be driven by profitability, military ambitions, curiosity, consumer demand or simply the status quo of constant progress. Opposing this movement would only be tantamount to being a modern-day Luddite.
That still doesn’t answer the fundamental question we started with – if robots to everything, what will we humans do?
We will do jobs that robots can’t – medicine, teaching, law, etc.
I picked this the first for a reason. Most people assume – correctly so – that the first domains the machines would enter are where the tasks are primarily based on manual drudgery rather than on intellectual labor, i.e. in the future robots will clean your house, do your dishes, drive your cars, deliver your goods, massage your back, cook and serve your food, build houses, and so on.
But for how long?
The most common fallacy with the way AI and automation are being developed is the assumption that robots will only replace linear work profiles involving high manual effort. You couldn’t be more wrong!
Robots WILL replace doctors, teachers, lawyers – all the professions we have traditionally associated with an evolved intellect.
Don’t believe me? Here’s another example – from The Daily Show (again) of how robots are and will continue going above and beyond our prejudiced expectations.
We will work in domains of creativity and art
Yeah. . . I hate to keep bursting your bubble.
While we WILL have more time to indulge in the creation of art, it might not necessarily be for commercial purposes. A lot of people from the creative circles that I have spoken to – graphic designers, music composers, UX designers, copywriters, even photographers seem to think that their profession is ‘safe’ because robots cannot create art!
Just take a look at Google DeepDreamAI. While it’s not creating art on its own today, generative AI someday will. Algorithms WILL learn what appeals to the human eye; decode what works on a product’s packaging, on a billboard, in a painting, in a tagline and maybe even on the screen.
Will we fight more often?
Nations always find ways of adapting and implementing any new technology towards militaristic goals. AI is no different.
It’s not like each country will have its own terminator. There will specific piecemeal applications of AI to save lives – drones taking out terrorist hide-outs on their own, self-driven tanks (because, why not) changing the playing field in urban warfare and robots that can infiltrate difficult terrains to engage and obliterate rogue elements.
How is this good? Look at the history of the world. We live in the least violent period in human history – that might seem difficult to believe because of the constant bombardment of information from the plethora of new sources we engage with today. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Steven Pinker’s research at Harvard.
Regardless of how we view technology, humanity and their relationship, advancements in technology have led to less and less conflict, warfare and bloodshed.
So NO, we will not be fighting more often.
I know, we will have more sex!
Possibly, but it may not always be with each other. Exhibit A.
We will surely have a lot more free time (unproven hypothesis, but humor me)! Indulgence of desires – carnal or otherwise – is one way of spending it. With porn, there is already evidence of how this need to fulfill desires coupled with instant gratification (at the press or click of a button) is changing the way we look, feel and think about sex.
With the advent of robots into this domain, we can only imagine how the landscape would change.
Robots will be everywhere. That is not what we can change/stop/fight. What we CAN do the change the way we design them. Use human empathy as a means of understanding why and how they should be designed.
Involve the end users in the design process, implement AI on a human ‘need’ basis, iterate and improve the solutions to give the end users an experience that not only fulfills their needs but also works towards changing their perception of what AI is and what it can enable humans to do/achieve.
So then, what’s left?
I have a bullish view on AI. Yes, it will change the socio-economic makeup of humankind, but in a good way.
It will free up the human mind from chores of everyday life to imagine and instrument a better future. It will give us an impetus to think further, do more, do things we want to do.
What’s left is choice. We will still get to choose what we intend to do with the time that we have.
The fear of dehumanization of various aspects of life is a prejudice emerging from the rush to judge and ascertain the future of AI and robots based on how they look and feel like today. Give it time. Human-centered design and its application in the field of AI will make robots empathetic, less machine-ish / more human-ish. After all, technology HAS to begin with empathy.
Today most mature organizations are applying design thinking or human-centered design to change the way we build, understand and perceive AI. The objective is not to build a robot that does your chores but a holistic and intuitive solution that enables you to better use your ‘intelligence for imagination’!!