Work & The Advance Of Artificial Intelligence
I was watching Automata on Netflix the other night for the second time, have you seen it?
It's a story about the advancement of consciousness in artificial intelligence and the future of the human race.
If I'm honest I'd say that the 2014 movie fell a little short of the mark for me in several areas. But it holds some interesting, fundamental questions about what it means to be human and our shortsighted interpretation of what life is.
The critics gave the Antonio Banderas movie a bit of a lashing at the time. Maybe the movie is not very original or well acted but overall I liked it nonetheless.
In this dystopian future, the majority of the human race has been wiped out. The remaining few are concentrated in cities akin to those in scenes from Blade Runner.
1 out of 10 for originality there.
Humanoid robots are developed to help human beings rebuild their shattered world. They build the cities and perform many of the mundane jobs humans at one time carried out.
They are built with two predefined immutable protocols that, 1. forbid them to harm humans, and 2. Forbid them to modify or reproduce themselves.
In other words they had fixed intelligence.
Or did they?
The Future Of Jobs In The Face Of Artificial Intelligence
Movies like this make me think. That's what they are supposed to do really…
They ask many big questions of the advancement of artificial intelligence, such as;
- What constitutes consciousness and can a machine be conscious?
- Can AI be trusted to diagnose illness and assign treatment to human beings?
- Would AI be capable of carrying out a complex construction or repair to say, rail transport infrastructure without human intervention?
- Could AI controlled vehicles be safe enough to operate autonomously?
- Can we install the consciousness of a human being into the mind of a machine?
- What will happen to millions of people whose jobs will disappear as a result of AI?
There are many more questions that the advancement of artificial intelligence poses, but the one I'm interested in here is the future of work.
So picture this…
In 50 years time autonomous machines either humanlike or not, are commonplace in society.
They serve coffee in coffee shops, the drive taxis, they build buildings and they provide medical help in hospital A&E departments.
AI operate scheduling and repair services to complex building systems.
The design, build, maintain and regulate complex energy systems that help fuel the economies of the world.
Fiat currency is gone. We don't work for pound notes and dollar bills any longer. Instead every member of the society receives a basic substantial income.
The jobs you and I once had, you know the ones we used to almost kill one another to get to every morning in waves of rush hour traffic?
Well, they don't exist for us anymore. We are too inefficient.
The once high paying jobs in finance, IT, Engineering, laboratory testing and so on are all performed by machines.
You and I lost the ability to compete with the efficiency of machines almost 20 years ago.
The Roles That Are Left
Lower skilled jobs will likely disappear first. In fact the are already in decline.
The increased efficiency and accuracy of machines in performing tasks traditionally carried out by humans is already marginalising many people.
In the US, and globally, productivity has steadily increased since the 1990's while the ratio of jobs to population growth has fallen and income has stayed the same.
When traditional jobs are gone what will we do?
Some would argue that a robot could never carry out complex, highly skilled tasks such as diagnosis of major illness. But even this has been shown to be the contrary.
In a recent study carried out by AI researchers from Google, their technology predicted the presence of cancer tumors in patient scans to the tune of 92.4% accuracy.
In contrast, trained and experienced pathologists achieved a 73.2% accuracy.
This has huge implications for the role artificial intelligence technology will play in health.
There's so many other examples of how our society is likely to change with the advancement of artificial intelligence. However, the overriding concern is that the way we think of “work” will need to change.
Value, Worth & Sense Of Self
You could argue that we are the creators of our own demise.
We believed en masse the promises of big business that somewhere in the future there was a better life.
100 years ago we left the fields and small local industry to begin a better existence working for the man in big factories making things that nobody needed.
And we are still there, although the work conditions are far better than they were, at least in the western world that is.
In less developed countries they don't have it as good.
Their work conditions are shit, but that's ok because they are better off after all for our insatiable consumerist appetites, right?
But who is better off?
When I look at how most of us in the western world work, it really is a case of corporates building a working environment that employees don't want to leave.
The idea here in the modern corporate workplace is that they make it so comfortable that they remove the impetus in us for better. It's like a full frontal lobotomy.
As such we become mute and sterilised. We are disillusioned with work but we should be, well, grateful.
What happens then to generations of people with the advancement and implementation of artificial intelligence in the workplace, is that they are eventually dropped like a stone.
We risk losing our sense of self-worth and identity. The future appears bleak, the promise of better never comes true.
The Opportunity In Change
I'm not suggesting that we halt the advancement of technology. The truth is we can't.
Life and evolution of consciousness, be that in biological or machine form, or indeed some kind of hybrid, will always find a way.
That follows the ancient teachings of Zen that say nature comes of itself. It has no controller, no boss, no master dictating its direction.
So change will happen, and in that change we have an opportunity.
We can either roll over and die or we can consciously choose our own direction according to our own true values and desires rather than that of society.
Art and creativity could flourish in this future society.
You get to receive a regular income from the state and pursue your artistic endeavours at your leisure.
No more stress and pressure to work for a living. Your sense of self-worth is no longer linked to income or role in the workforce.
The machines now provide the labour and we get to live off the fruits of that.
No more exploitation of people. No more lack mentality. Dropping bombs on people for the sake of oil, gas, information, control and power is no longer deemed necessary.
The idea of getting to the pie before it's all gone and killing fellow human beings in the process is considered a primitive idea that we look back on in disbelief.
Maybe. But in truth we have that choice now if we can see it.
We Are Living A Self Created Simulation
Some philosophers suggest we are already living in a simulation, and that now with advancement in intelligence technology we are in fact, the simulation recreating itself.
Although this idea has a unique feel to it, it falls in line with the idea that the universe and everything in it is a fractal.
In other words, life creates itself.
In this idea there is no big boss like traditional religions and politics will suggest. Life comes of itself and technology is an aspect of life because life (you and me), created it.
In time that technology somehow will bring forth its own creation and whatever consciousness is, will evolve beyond the biological sphere it now occupies and move into some kind of hybrid.
Crazy science fiction?
Maybe, but this is becoming science fact.
The overwhelming reality here in all of this is that the global society we've built is a perfect mirror image of the collective psychology of the people who comprise it.
For it to change and for us to have fairness, equality and sustained happiness and provision for us all we need a collective quantum shift in mindset.
In other words, the world (society) we occupy will change when we do.
Maybe the advancement of machines absent of egocentric minds will allow consciousness to move beyond it's current primitive existence.
I'd like to come back in 100 years and see how it's going.
Peter Whiting says
Really like articles like this that promote new ways of thinking. Thanks Larry.
Why don’t you just hang around for another hundred years instead of coming back? – “life finds a way”
Yeah maybe Peter, you never know…