Note: Article written in 2018.
History of Work
Let’s start with the past.
In case you’re not aware, the concept of “writing” was invented about 50,000 years ago which led to an explosion in knowledge, then agriculture was invented probably 10,000 years ago, the Machine Age began about 300 years ago.
Of course, there is also the idea of industry revolutions moving from the first to the current 4th, which I won’t go into too much details in this article (you can however read more about it here).
Meanwhile, in 30 years the ability of computers might possibly match that of the human brain.
This is not surprising, is it?
As you can imagine, this revolution might be comparable to the invention of the alphabet, agriculture, or machines which are the great turning points in human history. Now a similar revolution of this magnitude is on the horizon; the singularity may happen around 2045.
That means, computers may approach our ability to think. This may not be easy to understand or even believe but such a future might lie ahead of us.
Think about it. This is similar to how one would not understand the idea of flying until the Wright Brothers invented the airplane.
Evolution of Computers
Thanks to the explosive evolution of computers, it’s possible to make reasonably accurate and realistic predictions about the future. And this will vastly improve the quality of our lives and sensors will anticipate where problems will arise. Or it’ll pick up when machines break down so that everything runs smoothly and efficiently.
Of course, some of these predictions will happen earlier in some places compared to others. Nonetheless, it’s only a matter of time where these predictions will affect every aspect of our lives.
And when it happens, they might predict when you will get sick, where your next vacation will be, what the next hit song might be, and what the crime rates might be in the future. They will predict the best possible career for us, the best path for success and happiness and even predict our future girlfriend or boyfriend.
Well, like it or not, it’s already happening.
Today, the world has become full of predictions about the future. This is possible because computers are rapidly catching up with human intelligence.
IBM held an event to showcase the capabilities of Watson (an artificial intelligence system) and they developed programs that can beat people at chess matches. After that success, managers now want to put Watson to practical use. Hence, they started offering future prediction services to hospitals, financial institutions, and other customers.
And this is just one example.
As you can imagine, various forms of artificial intelligence or AI are now becoming part of our everyday lives.
AI takes the shape of robots like those along with mobile devices such as smartphones. However, what we see is not really AI it actually resides in cyberspace on a digital network.
In truth, every form of artificial intelligence is software that runs on a supercomputer connected to a network. AI doesn’t simply use equations input by people to perform calculations. Instead it can sort huge amounts of data on its own and it can also identify relationships between different pieces of data.
People work to find the reasons for why things happen but artificial intelligence systems scan numbers and look for patterns.
The Driveless Car
Google’s Driveless Car (2017-18)
Driverless car technology exists today and many people may even have Auto Drive features already available in the cars today. This idea will continue to spread and many people will get to enjoy this feature in this life time.
More specifically, I believe it’s possible within the relatively near future where autonomous vehicles will be something that we’ll all get to enjoy. Which I think that that’s going to change life pretty dramatically for the better.
That also sort of presents some really interesting changes to other parts of life.
You see, I think everybody has probably heard plenty about prototypes and different car designs, and what you might be able to do while you’re in cars. So it might be more interesting if once you start connecting the dots like how do our cities and road changes and things like that.
Autonomous features in a car translate into other areas of transportation and technology. You know, we’re already starting to see things like multi-directional elevators? And that are capable not just of moving up and down on a pulley system? But that can move omni-directional too almost like what you saw at the end of the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” movie?
So one of the good things about autonomous cars, in addition to all the other stuff (like reducing death on the road because of poor driving) is that it connects our communities in a new way. That means, it can help to reshape what our cities look like and even reshape what our buildings look like.
And you know it’s entirely possible that you might be able to live 60 to 120 miles away from where you work and that could be a totally reasonable commute.
The Future of Jobs
Let’s take the job market one by one and analyze what happens when things become automated.
When people hear about driverless cars, the first thing they talk about is the job market. Essentially, what’s going to happen to professional drivers and truck drivers? Are they going to be laid off?
This comes up a lot when we talk about automation and AI. And here’s what I would say, as with every groundbreaking technology, there has always been technological unemployment. And you can trace that back for many hundreds of years throughout many different revolutions.
So it’s highly likely, even in America where there are very strong union presence, that we will see widespread technological unemployment like the professional driver space. Having said that, many do not realised that, in every industrial revolution, while many old jobs will be removed, many new jobs will be created too.
Meanwhile, there are people that think professors are going to be laid off because training courses will be put on the web you’ll simply be able to put on your goggles and download any professors lecture.
The Future of Bots
I think that this is more about augmentation rather than obviating those jobs. There are lots of new technologies and tools that are AI-powered that enable predictive learning so especially in more challenging courses this helps individuals learn at their own pace.
On the one hand, for reinforcement purposes that’s really useful, on the other hand at the moment what we know about how the brain works it still looks like we respond best to one-on-one or human to human explanation and that the retention is a little bit better.
Now the difference would be that some of these newer systems will get smarter and with customization, they would help people to learn in a way that makes much more sense to them. I think that the tools that are coming are going to enhance some fields rather than totally get rid of them.
We might be concerned about safety. That’s because if we’re asking systems to behave in unpredictable ways. What goes along with that is that they may wind up behaving in ways that humanity doesn’t like. I think that this is not going to happen anytime soon but perhaps by the end of the century (just my personal opinion).
Who knows for sure because robots may become better than us, in which case they could become dangerous and I think we should put a chip in their brain to shut them off if they have murderous thoughts. That is if we need fail safe mechanisms perhaps late in the century when robots do become as smart as us.
Sure, but don’t dwell over this. Because, honestly, there are too many possibilities at the moment.
Labeling The Next Bots
Let’s move slightly forward.
The AI community is a little split over the timing right now, we are using what’s called artificial narrow intelligence this is where systems are able to do tasks equal to or better than humans. Driverless car is one example.
What comes next is artificial general intelligence. This is where we have AI’s that are generally capable of doing many things which could be creating music or developing those new scientific theorems or you know having entire conversations that are you know on their own. That is the point at which we have some concerns about artificial general intelligence systems (AGIS) making decisions that maybe we don’t agree with or not best for humanity.
The timeline for that ranges, some of the optimists think that could be within the next decade. Many other people think it could be as many as 70 years from now. Personally, I think we’re probably closer to the year 2040 to 2050.
And then what happens after that?
Who knows. One thing is for sure. As things continues to evolve, I’m going to sit tight and see how things unfold itself.