“If robots will do everything, what will humans do?” Why AI rhetoric deeply worries me.
Driverless cars, nanobots to check your health metrics remotely, Artificial Intelligence making jobs redundant and what not. That’s all great news. But here’s what worries me.
In all the rhetoric around AI (and I am using it as one blanket term for all technological advancements, not getting into modalities), we seem to have forgotten one key stakeholder.
We seem to have marginalised the very human race in our discussion of the future, and put machines at the heart of it.
Most conversations out there — predictions, futurist talks — it is all about how AI is going to change our lives for better or worse. Almost all descriptions of the world in 2030 is machine-centric, barring mentions of food shortage and world-war-over-water.
The rhetoric is as if humans are audiences to this age of AI and the story is being told from the machine’s perspective.
It is weird. And somewhat ominous. That somewhere we are slipping out of our own notice.
Consider just one example:
Everyone is talking of millions of jobs disappearing by 2030, but where is the discussion on what happens to those people who will lose those jobs? Yes, there are lists of areas where jobs will be added, but is it that simple?
Are the categories of job disappearing (and the level of skills required for them) and the categories of jobs getting created — similar? Which means the people losing jobs can upgrade reasonably well and fast to be employed in the new jobs? E.g what about the drivers and people in the transport business and the health diagnostic professionals who may lose their jobs — will the new job categories be easy for them to upgrade to?
Is the equation as simple as 2 million jobs (-) and 2 millions jobs (+)? Is it really sum zero?
And if not, what does it mean? Will there be one group of people who will be spoilt for choice? And another who will be left with nothing?
And if so, will the economic divide increase? What will it mean for the peace and order of the society we live in? Who is preparing for this future?
I could go on.. and this was just ONE example.
The questions looming large over the human society are several, complex and with no easy answers.
But the biggest worry is who is asking those questions — and the with the same amount of enthusiasm as “what all can AI do?”
Will change in healthcare mean greater life expectancy? If so, how do we engage older people in the society? What will the interaction between generations look like? How do we create spaces to accomodate the requirements of the aging and the very young?
How will family structures change? How will relationships look like? (People are already talking of AI fulfilling human needs of companionship)?
Infact, what will ‘being human’ look like in future?
Almost all these questions require serious thought, intervention and investment across areas of government policies, legal and socio-cultural aspects.
Often neglected from the ‘future of work’ discussions are the deeply significant practices of law, policy, advocacy, sociology and psychology. These skills will be as, if not more important, than technological skills in future.
Where are we talking about investing in developing these skills at the K12 and higher education level, in our frenzy over artificial intelligence?
Unfortunately, there is almost negligible realization of how critical these disciplines are in the future context. AI is the new buzzword we all like to be associated with, without stepping back to observe the big picture.
Social scientists, lawmakers, policy advocators have a phenomenally tough job at their hand in future. But no one seems to be paying as much attention.
These skills take time to build, and their area of problems even longer to solve. They must be invested upon today, as much as we are investing in technology.
We need these experts as much as the techies.
And finally, we need futurists who can envision 2030, with humans and the rest of the living world right where they belong. At the center.
That perhaps will be Real Intelligence. The kind that allows us to see beyond and better than Artificial Intelligence.