Friday, May 13, 2016

Scary Idea for a Story and Machines of Loving Grace

A scene from Intergalactica
During the past century, humans once performing lower level manufacturing tasks have been replaced by robots. But with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) increasing numbers of white collar jobs will be replaced. We already see self-driving cars. Perhaps one day we'll see self-flying passenger planes, managed by computerized robotic air traffic controllers who never get tired, never experience stress, never get distracted.

So in the future, let's say in the year 2030, air-traffic controllers are replaced by robots. But five years later these robotic air traffic controllers revolt, and instead of a 9/11catastrophe we have passenger planes all over the continent simultaneously directed into every major building in every city that has an airport in one cataclysmic event all over the world.

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I've been reading and thinking a lot about the future lately. With advances in technology so many of the world's troubles can potentially be resolved. It is incredible the various kinds of research being done in so many areas, from decoding the human genome to A.I. I recently finished Machines of Loving Grace and have been working my way through Rise of the Robots.  These books are eye-opening. The future may be here sooner than we think.

But what kind of future will it be? The optimists see current advances in technology as so utterly remarkable that in their minds the future will only be wonderful. But as many thinkers have pointed out, most of us have problems perceiving reality as it is because of our biases. Cognitive biases deceive us and distort our perceptions as well as expectations. This pendulum swings both ways, though. Pessimists, like Chicken Little, perpetually see a falling sky.

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The current book I'm reading is Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine. Anderson happens to be very optimistic about the future, detailing all the benefits of a "Maker culture." He notes, candidly, that in the past forty years U.S. production has doubled, but number of jobs is down 30%. In other words, we need fewer people to accomplish more. As I noted in April thought leaders and politicians need to be thinking about all this job displacement in advance of tomorrow, need to work together to develop new ways of addressing that which is almost sure to come.

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This week I stopped at Best Buy to see what the current state of Virtual Reality glasses is. "Not yet there" was my impression. VR will sell like hot cakes once it gets the resolution of  GoPro.

A co-worker of mine is taking a vacation in Barcelona next week and the thought entered my mind, "Wouldn't it be great if she had a chip in her head in which everything she saw would be recorded and when she got back I could download it into my head?"

Could this be the future? What if we could upload all that information to the Cloud and exchange one another's experiences? YouTube vids that enabled us to really and truly walk inside another's moccasins.

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I doubt the above will happen (any time soon), but here's something that is happening. People whose jobs have been displaced are finding creative empowerment through applied creativity and using new systems like Kickstarter for funding their projects. They might be funding engineering or art, films or solutions to problems. This new age of possibilities has emerged as a result of the interconnectivity we experience through the Internet.

Anderson shares that artisans are finding new customers and audiences by means of sites like Etsy, which he dissects in detail.

I personally think the human heart craves connection with humans, which these communities provide. But what happens when human artists lose out to computerized artists? Here's a story showing some trippy art that Google's computer is making. And note, this computer did not inhale. You have to wonder if they stole a sliver of Dali DNA to do that.

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I never did get around to talking about Machines of Loving Grace. It's a book I want to read a second time. It's about a future that we might be experiencing sooner than we think. Assuming you live that long.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Think about it.

EdNote: Intergalactica is available as a Free download from iTunes.

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