The Rise and Rise of our Robot Overlords?

It’s been a very interesting few weeks out there in interweb land…yippee kai ay! Of course, my inquisitive eye was drawn to a intriguing pieces on technology – with a good old dash of conspiracy theorism thrown in just for spice.

Doesn’t do to encase our brains in an echo chamber of confirmation bias, after all. Bad for the thinky-thinky parts up there in the squishiest computer of them all (I’m talking about the cerebellum, prefrontal cortex et al – more on that here).

Firstly, my interest was snagged on the social and economic experiments under way in Europe. A universal basic income for all. It intrigued me from an economic, sociological, psychological and philosophical perspective all at once. It’s a very big idea with very big ramifications many of which I am not sure we have even begun to understand. It’s Kaz catnip. Resistance was futile.

There are many arguments for and against this concepts. One of the popular arguments is an economic and technological one. It asserts, and I am paraphrasing others, that in a world where human workers are replaced by robots a universal living wage is the only thing that is going to save our collective bacon. Unless, of course, you happen to be the new robot CEO who needs to turn a fast profit foryour robot shareholders and Board and want access to a cheap, self-replicating and biodegradable, gluten free, non GMO workforce.

What this led me to wonder out loud on social media is whether such a scenario is in fact likely. Aside: yes, yes, I do know it is hasty, ill-advised and rash to engage  but I just can’t or won’t help myself.

Thinking of all the core jobs out there, was it indeed possible for a robot to replace a human? A robot teacher, a robot ambulance worker, a robot police officer, a robot judge or solicitor or doctor or nurse? Could those inherent human service and social fabric roles be done by a robot? Of course, such questions are verboten as far as the zealots are concerned.

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Image retrieved from here

I was soon instructed that we already have the technology for sophisticated technology capable of doing all those things and that the human need and preference for human touch and interaction was clearly all in my head. Setting aside that such confidence is curiously alienated from the actual evidence (I know, who’d a thunk it, right?), I did have to entertain the notion that perhaps we do have such technology now. If only so as to differentiate myself from the horde of thought zombies that shuffle through social media, lurching from one issue to the next.

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Image and interesting article on internet mob mentality here

Are our robot overlords just around the corner? Was Garner’s prediction more accurate than I had thought? Interestingly, the Swiss decided the big idea wasn’t for them but that does not mean that we were already at ground zero for the rise of our robot overlords and just did not know it.

Some weeks later, well after the zombie thought police had shuffled off elsewhere, came an intriguing interview with a futurist on AI and IA. I have been intrigued by AI and neural network computing for the past 20 years. IA, or humans with intelligence augmented by technology, is still the stuff of science fiction to me. It is fantasy. Not an actual realm of scientific inquiry. Try again, thinky-thinky bits in my brain. Try again.

Someone is actually researching IA. Mind=blown. Clearly I need an upgrade but would I be able to afford one? I am not a member of the über class.

I fell headlong into a dystopian nightmare where only the very wealthy have access to this technology and as such a super class of humans are creatures against which the rest of us have not one single hope. By us, I mean a motley collection of humanity, robots, AI this guy insists is a bomb waiting to go of and the ants and rats that are posited to inherit the Earth long after we’ve obliterated ourselves. Happy, happy, fun times!

 

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I pulled myself out of that by considering the other things people have to say about our technological workmates of the future.  We’re a long way off from being replaced by robots. Hooray, I can work until I die! If I love what I’m doing it’s not really work, right?

 

Image retrieved from here.

 

I so need this sticker.

 

I should point out that it’s not all bad news and even I know that. Nefarious conspiracies aside, finding meaningfulness in our lives and work is a powerful antidote for existential angst. I find sarcasm especially meaningful. So, business as usual for me.

Technology rolls on, throwing ideas and opinions of all stripes out there for those able to get online and engage in the shallow capricious sea of the interweb. One philosopher says we’re courting our own destruction via AI (gosh darn, I thought it was climate change and antibiotic resistant bacteria was going to wipe us out), another futurist says that it’s ages and ages off and we’re far more sophisticated than the alarmists think we are. Who is being pessimistic? Who is being optimistic? Only with the benefit of 50:50 hindsight can we ever know.

Personally, I am looking forward to a surfeit of sci-fi comedy films that I can enjoy on my universal basic income whilst I am recovering from my IA upgrade. Let the sarcasm roll on.

 

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