Are Humans Replaceable?
What is the future of mankind?
For centuries, humans have imagined a greater future where we would have totally mastered technology for all of our needs. Along with that, however, comes the darker predictions that it will be technology which masters humans.
What’s your belief? Has specialized technology and artificial intelligence benefitted us across a variety of industries, and are we just at the dawn of a better technological age? Or will general artificial intelligence soon get out of hand and ultimately hurt us as it has in so many works of fiction?
Regardless of where artificial intelligence takes us, one thing is for sure: We’re going to see a whole lot more AI across many aspects of our lives, and not everyone is going to be happy about it.
AI in Everyday Life
Artificial intelligence is already all around us, and it really isn’t anything new. In fact, many jobs that have already been replaced by machines are ones that we might not think twice about if we’re not directly affected by them: Toll booth workers have been replaced by things like E-ZPass, bank tellers by ATMs, and cashiers by automated check out lines.
Sometimes these innovations rapidly speed up our daily lives, while others may slow us down to the point of frustration. When it comes down to glitches with technology, one thing is for sure: It can be a highly polarizing subject; people love it when it works and hate it when it doesn’t.
When Humans Don’t Matter
So what’s happened to all those former cashiers, bank tellers, and innumerable factory workers who have had their jobs replaced by technology?
While many of us may feel secure in our current jobs and reassured that what would do can’t be replaced by machinery, that isn’t necessarily true. According to one study, as many as 45% of jobs today could be feasibly replaced by current technology. That accounts for nearly $2 trillion in annual wages, so if it comes down to employers saving money, would they even think twice about their human workers?
Can Technology Have Values?
Since the Industrial Revolution, automation has always been the move forward. Why leave room for human error when a robot could just as successfully—if not perfectly—perform a difficult surgery or even just be a safer cab or truck driver? Sooner or later, it’s a reality we’re going to have to face. And we think it’s going to happen sooner.
President Obama sat down with MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito and Wired Editor-in-Chief Scott Dadich to address the subject of artificial intelligence, and it’s definitely something he’s had on his radar. Though the president admitted that the tech-driven worlds we’ve read about and watched in works in works of fiction are still a long way off, we’ve got to start preparing today for that reality.
“If properly harnessed, [artificial intelligence] can generate enormous prosperity and opportunity,” he said. “But it also has some downsides that we’re gonna have to figure out in terms of not eliminating jobs. It could increase inequality. It could suppress wages.”
The conversation then drifted into the moral questions artificial intelligence, especially self-driving cars, will soon have to make. Ito explained that at the MIT Media Lab, they used the term “extended intelligence” to refer to the technology they will have to build societal values into.
That’s what Obama admitted what most worries him about AI…