In the modern world, we are increasingly relying on technology to help us in basic everyday tasks, such as conducting bank transactions, booking things such as flights, hotels, and movie tickets, communicating with each other and so much more. Many of us who are somewhat older can remember a time before the Internet and widespread technology in every household, where the only way to communicate over a great distance was either calling or sending an old-fashioned letter through the post. But even for those who can remember the days before computers and smart phones, it seems somewhat unfathomable managing without them today. We can remember doing school reports with just encyclopedias, calling from phone boxes and using paper maps to navigate around an unknown area, but it all seems so needlessly complicated today, and we have become accustomed to using technology for research, communication and navigation, and many of us can’t imagine life without it.
Lately people have been talking about artificial intelligence and the effect it may have on our future – even the famed scientist Stephen Hawking expressed concern about technology becoming too powerful and getting out of control, possibly even endangering human civilization. Surely we are all familiar with the film the Matrix, in which humanity is controlled by artificial intelligence. But, at least for now, artificial intelligence is still a new and developing type of technology and tests have shown that even the most advanced artificial intelligence is still subject to errors and is still far from perfect. That said, the world’s top ‘go’ player, Ke Jie, was beaten by Google’s ‘deep mind’ artificial intelligence, which is perhaps a little disconcerting!
But as already mentioned, there is still a lot that robots cannot do. Although factories have long been automated, we still need people to maintain and repair those machines when they break. Many people are concerned that repetitive jobs that can be easily done by a robot will be lost – jobs such as construction, retail, office administration and various service industry jobs. However, it is estimated that less than 5 percent of jobs will actually be lost to automation, so in reality it seems that people losing their job isn’t as big of a concern as some might think.
It is indeed difficult to imagine robots taking over any sort of creative work: making art or music, cooking, writing and so forth. Although robots are arguably well suited for mundane, repetitive jobs like cleaning or working in factories, they are not capable of understanding human emotions, or indeed expressing the human experience and what it is to be a sentient being. I personally find it difficult to imagine robots making connections like humans, and indeed other living creatures are capable of doing. There are many jobs that involve human connection and an understanding of communication and the human experience, such as therapists, social workers, occupational therapists, teachers and so much more that I believe cannot be automated because artificial intelligence, at least the technology we have today, is not capable of doing these sort of jobs.
unfathomable (adj.) – unbelievable, cannot be imagined
accustomed (v) – to be used to or familiar with something
disconcerting (adj.) – something that makes you worry
mundane (adj) – everyday, not interesting
sentient (adj.) – able to feel and understand emotions