The technology section of the Guardian had an interesting article (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/13/artificial-intelligence-ai-unemployment-jobs-moshe-vardi), ‘Would you bet against sex robots? AI ‘could leave half of world unemployed’‘, is that so? So, is the title a reference that 50% is in prostitution, or is there more?
The article starts straight of the bat without delay it gives the quote: “Machines could put more than half the world’s population out of a job in the next 30 years, according to a computer scientist who said on Saturday that artificial intelligence’s threat to the economy should not be understated“.
I remember a similar discussion now 35 years ago. It was 1981, I was working on the defence mainframe and I got the inside scoop how computers would replace people, how those machines would put hardworking people out of a job and a future. In the first 5 years that followed I saw the opposite, yes some work became easier, but that also meant that more work could be done. The decade that followed gave us an entire new region of technology. A region that would open doors that had never been there in the first place.
This technology is not any different, it will open up different doors.
Now, the people in ‘fear’ of it all are not the most half-baked individuals. They include Physicist Stephen Hawking and the tech billionaires Bill Gates and Elon Musk, in addition there is professor Vardi from Rice University, his statement “AI could drive global unemployment to 50%, wiping out middle-class jobs and exacerbating inequality“, I massively disagree here. The words of Elon Musk calling it “our biggest existential threat” and in addition professor Vardi stated “humanity will face an existential challenge“, those two comments are closer to the reality. Yet here too I believe changes will dominate. Consider a few years back, back to the time when I was younger then young (like 900BC roughly), in an age of Greek wars and utter ‘nationalism’ the Olympic truce was created. “Ekecheiria”, was established in Ancient Greece in the 9th century BC through the signing of a treaty by three kings: Iphitos of Elis, Cleosthenes of Pisa and Lycurgus of Sparta. (Source: olympic.org) There was a lull but in 1896 it started again. An event, which origin was to create an option to not be in a war and to compete. Of all the existential angst we have, robots should not be on the list any time soon.
As we saw the start of recruitment for Mars, a serious recruitment to start colonising mars, we must admit that there are issues on mars, several could be diminished with the use of intelligent robots. Or perhaps the idea that NASA is looking on how to get resources from asteroids, so how about that Android solution? The BBC gives us the speculation on ocean living (at http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20131101-living-on-the-ocean), again an element where we do not thrive, but a robot could pave the way. In my own view, with the massive energy issues, how long until someone has the idea to place paddled wheels above a hydrothermal vent in the ocean to capture it as an energy source? Not the kind of work a person can do, a machine could, and an AI driven one could excel there. Just three places where we could end up with more and not less. Yet Vardi does give an interesting side, if robots replace people to some extent, that value of physicality might be lost. Now ask the bricklayer if he could do something else, would he? There is indeed the danger that physical labour becomes less and less appealing, yet that does not mean it will be gone. It would take at least half a century for things to be completed, whilst in that mean time new evolutions start, new challenges start.
More important, much more important is the one fact people tend to avoid out of fear. But you the reader, if you are over 45, consider that in the near future you will be dead! So will 3 out of 7 of your friends. Yes, the population is growing, yet the age groups are shifting, this implies that robots could be a solution for some of the work areas that do not require academic thinking. All these opportunities, not threats!
So as we see a new iteration of fear, is this version more valid than then the previous one? With that I mean the implementation of the PC. Perhaps having another set of less fear mongering eyes would help. The second part people forget is that fear mongering is also a drain on productivity here. Even as we speak Japan has a lead in this market, as does America. So how about we start getting ahead of the rest, so that is wrong with the commonwealth picking up a robotic skill or two, because one truth remains, once the other player get too much of a lead, the consequence will be that the followers are not considered for the creational jobs here and that is where the real mulah is, the IT explosion taught us that and that field grew a multitude of billionaires, the next technological iteration will do no less.
I am not alone in my way of thinking, the writer Nicholas Carr gives us: “human creativity and intuition in the face of complex problems is essentially irreplaceable, and an advantage over computers and their overly accurate reputation“, which is where the new future will head. Not to create robots, but the creativity to make then excel in extreme places where we could not comprehend until out boundaries are clearly mapped. So how is this news such an eyeopener? Well, when we get back to the beginning we saw “artificial intelligence’s threat to the economy“, as stated, much like the Personal Computer, it will not be a threat, but a solution, an opening into a new arm of the technology sector, even more important, this is not just a IT only field. It will require quality engineers and depending on the application of the scene. This means that we get new challenges, different ones mind you, but not lesser ones?
In that regard, depending on the implementation, it will require analysts, engineers, programmers and a few others on the list of adepts.
all these options and we did not even need to get close to the technological design of the new age cybernetic machines for the purpose of erotic exploration (level 1 at http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/04/sexbots-realdoll-sex-toys), which is nowhere near an AI experience, time will tell how real that field becomes. Consider the age of STD’s we see nowadays. Mycoplasma Genitalium might be the new ‘trend’, as it can be cured with a mere one week setting of anti-biotics. So how long until it evolves into something that does not cure? Yet we do not even have to go that far, consider all the areas where man (or woman) cannot function, the risk too high and the rewards become too low. Here comes the clockwork system (aka the AI robot) and we are back on track.
So I see the robot as a positive wave. For careers, for jobs, for business evolution and for evolving technology. We only need to see the light of creation and we will end up with a lot more options than we bargained for.