Are robots set to take over our society?
It is a scary thought to say the least, especially when you consider the Singularity, or what Ray Kurzweil believes is the date when computing power eclipses the intelligence of the human brain. Basically, at that time the capacity of a machine will be greater than a human mind and they will be able to think for themselves.
So I guess we will need to learn how to live with them or we’re pretty much screwed.
Jon Evans wrote a very intriguing post on TechCrunch titled After Your Job is Gone. In it he explains how technical advancements are continuing at such a rapid pace that very soon you just might find yourself out of a job since a robot can do what you do more efficiently and at a a very reduced cost. Actually, he dives deeper into what we are seeing today to illustrate this is already happening in many different industries.
Think you’re safe because you don’t work in a factory? Guess again. “In a move that could put millions of teenagers around the world out of their first job, Momentum Machines is creating a hamburger-making machine that churns out made-to-order burgers,” reports Gizmag. A Cornell robot can learn how and when to pour you a beer. Well, never mind food service, how about social services? …Oh. Other robots have been shown “wiping the mouth of a disabled man and adjusting a blanket.”
You should read the piece, he also taps into the inevitable widening division between the elite wealthy, high tech class and the poor majority. The picture he paints is not pretty.
I want to stress again that this is only the beginning — that as software eats the world, as Marc Andreessen put it, this two-track economy will grow ever more divergent around the planet. The relatively few people fortunate enough to work in technology (or have the capital to invest in it) will grow steadily wealthier, even as more and more jobs around the world are replaced by software and drones and robots.
I generally agree with his stance – basically you are fighting for your job job every day and eventually you will lose the battle. Not to a human, but to a machine.
What I don’t agree with is his torch-the-earth view of how WE ALL are pretty much screwed.
I don’t think ALL jobs are not lost, but I do believe you are screwed if you have a job where a task or skillset is the premise of your position. Do you do something that can be automated in a certain way? Do you complete a task in a day that could possibly be completed in a few minutes by a programmed machine?
If you do a job which is judged by time, speed, accuracy or many other attributes that an algorithm can optimize, yes you are screwed.
So what are you do to?
Well, don’t just sit there and cry, or just try to deal with it. I suggest you pull back your perspective and look for your answer within the fundamental differences between machines and humans.
Human – human interaction will never be replicated.
What robots will never do is employ Leadership over humans. It’s simply impossible. Leadership requires such a complex ingredient of human intelligence (IQ), Social Intelligence (SI), Emotional Intelligence (EQ), situational awareness, cognitive functionality, amongst other nuances of human life.
Even if Ray Kurzweil is right and we’ll see a time where the two are simply equal in computational power, humans will simply refuse to follow machines. We yearn for people; beings who have feelings and care about our well being and who will lead us towards prosperity.
The human race will always be in short supply for quality leaders. We needed them in tribal times as hunter gatherers and we’ll need them as the digital future takes hold right in front of our very eyes.
So if you want to save yourself and your employable future, you need to think long and hard about what you do. What makes you unique? Are you indispensable? Can you think critically and influence others in your way of thinking?
What do you do that no robot could ever replace? What intagible qualitites do you posses which a company large or small – today or next millennia – will pay you top dollar to do for them?
Answer that and you’re set for life.
Image cortesy of Flickr user epSos.de.