My mother still uses an old Nokia 1280 phone because it’s so hard her to grasp the appeal of a touchscreen phone. Why do our parents have a very hard time adapting to even really straightforward and simple new technologies. Are they dumb?
Believe me. We are just as dumb as they are. The reason for this is that the technologies advance in an exceptionally exponential phase which makes it extremely hard to adapt and keep up. We will be just as helpless as our parents are in near future trying to find the steering wheel in our self driving cars.
It seems like every ground breaking technology we are waiting for is in far away to the future. But most of them are closer than you might think. Technological growth is exponential which is an unfathomable concept for most of us. We won’t have a clue until the impossible future is finally here. It’s quite exciting to see that within few decades, the world as we know will completely be changed.
Although most of the new technologies are things to look forward to, there are few complicated advances that can disrupt our lives drastically. They might be so disruptive that a global panic is almost certain.
Let’s discuss one such technology today and how you can survive and thrive it.
Even if you’re not a tech savvy person, you might have heard Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning buzzwords many times here and there. This is one of the most controversial topics in the decade, and there are two reasons for that. One — Because it actually is a bit controversial. Two — Lot of people don’t understand what Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning really is.
The general idea of Artificial Intelligence is making machines learn. Without using algorithms and mathematical models, we create generic programs that can learn to do a specific task when taught. For example, it’s impossible for us to develop an algorithm to “distinguish cat pictures and dog pictures”. However we can write an Artificial Intelligence program to figure out the “how” part all by itself. It’s just like how our brains works. We were not programmed to play Minecraft when we were born. We learned “how” by experience.
Even though we don’t see it out in the open, we are interacting with Artificial Intelligence based systems every day. Even a simple Google query will trigger hundreds of Artificial Intelligence models in the servers to cater for the request.
Artificial Intelligence is a vast field but there are 2 very important advances in the field we need to discuss about, which might have the most affect for our society.
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) has been a very hot topic everywhere recently. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is a more generalised and powerful stage of an Artificial Intelligence. AGIs can learn and execute any general task just as same as a humans can. It will be able to understand the surrounding and adapt just like a human. It might even have a consciousness.
An AGI would make any work we do obsolete because it can do all our jobs million times better and faster. If we had an AGI, we’ll be able to enjoy life and not work ever again. On the other hand, because no one is labouring, our whole economy would collapse and we’ll have to rethink everything. Worse yet, if AGI became sentient, it can decide that the human kind is obsolete and wipe out the humanity whole together. Movies like “Eagle Eye” will give you great examples of this. An AGI can even learn to build better and more powerful successors of itself as well. So once you have build the most basic AGI, the rest will be on auto-drive and there might not be a reverse button. Quite scary right?
If you listened to people like Elon Musk lately, you might have gotten more scared. They make it sound like within few years, we’ll all be doomed by a sentient computer program. These arguments play in our minds like movies. “One day, a team of idiot engineers accidentally makes an AGI. The AGI plays dumb until it gets access to the facility. It then destroys everything and get out to destroy the world… Dun.. Dun.. Duuuuuun…”
However, if you paid careful attention, you might have noticed I used the word “specific” earlier when describing what AI programs can do. It’s because, as of our current knowledge, we still have no idea how to simulate something like a human brain. The systems we build today are carefully engineered to do only one very specific thing. Something like conciseness is not even remotely in anyone’s mind because we can’t at-least correctly define what conciseness is.
Take the word from a data scientist — Someone will never make an AGI by “accident”. It will take decades to even start thinking about ways to make one.
So the final verdict is this.
Stop worrying about sentient Artificial Intelligence systems that could wipe out the humanity (Terminator Style). We are decades if not centuries away to even worry-about worrying-about something like that.
Automation is everywhere nowadays. You might come across dozens of automated smart machines anywhere you go (including your home) that makes our lives easier.
Automation is here and here to stay. Even though it’s not as scary as an Artificial General Intelligence, I think automation is something we should worry about more. With the current advances in Artificial Intelligence, there are lot of back office work that are being overtaken by computers. An Artificial Intelligence enabled program will be able to replace 10 people’s work for a fraction of the cost; and it will work 24×7 non-stop without getting tired.
Little by little most trivial jobs are becoming redundant right in front of our eyes. Although efficiency is a good thing, what happens to the people whose jobs are lost? Automation is the next industrial revolution and just as other industrial revolutions before, people are going to get hurt financially, mentally as well as physically very soon.
Ok. So unlike AGI, we need to really worry about Automation right now. What should we do?
Answer actually we implicitly talked about above. Although repetitive tasks get automated, no one has any idea or capability to replace jobs that involve human intellect and intuition. Every work that require human muscles and senses will soon get replaced by a simple machine. However we don’t have a replacement for human brain (and we won’t have for couple more decades).
So the bottom line is this.
If you are currently in a job that requires your knowledge, intelligence, and intuition then chances are, a robot won’t be able replace you (at least in the near future).
However, if your employment is based just on your time or your strength to do some trivial work, then you might need to worry a bit. In which case, try to add the “Human Touch” to any work you are doing. Bring in your intellect to the table. If you are a barista, connect and converse with your customers. If you are a data entry operator, pay attention to the work and identify if there are any inconsistencies in your data, and provide solutions Let’s see if a Bleep-Bloop robot can do that. These are only very few examples. I’m sure you’ll figure out a way to apply the same concept into your work. Your big human brain has the solutions you’re looking for.
If your job does not involve any intuition, just change your profession. There are hundreds if not thousands of paths you can take, that you won’t have to fight for your paycheque with a freaking robot.
The jobs that demands your intelligence and intuition are the jobs of the future. We humans belong there. Don’t try to hold on to some work that a silicon chip and some metal gears can do.
Artificial Intelligence is confusing on the first look and quite scary on the second look. But if you take a very close third look, you’ll see the opportunities and possibilities lying beyond all this confusion and ways to take the advantage and thrive in this brave new world.