A possible symbiosis

So… To take myself out of the nitty gritty for a moment it seems still possible for there to be machine-human symbiosis.
Some number of decasdes ago, while in highschool I wondered about this matter. At that time we had 80486 computers and Ram in the megabytes. My conclusion for the computer replacing many human jobs or functions or that they become more valuable than humans was that it is inevitable that we strive to live with them. Much like white people have learned to live with black people and that we care for endangered more than we care about some peoples economic welfare–we can learn to live with computers as equals and sacrifice some human pursuits to that end.

Alas that was more than two decades ago.

Last night, I heard Kaifulee’s Lee address a crowd and discuss AI businesses in China. His answer was somewhat sombering. In paraphrase, I believe what he said was that in the age of AI, where computer product managers are gradually replacing human functions that requires less than 5 seconds of human thought with AI, the future human will be in things that take more thought, but under time and audience pressure he gave art, music, appreciation of art, things that require a personal touch, as examples of new jobs.

Personally, I can empathize. As one who sees foremost advances of AI and robotics, and a person whose job is partially to make money by disruptively using this new technology to replace old systems, I can definitely see his human_replaced_counter ticking up and projections for it to grow very fast.

(Much else was discussed at his talk, of course, this is just a short question at the end of the talk)

It might just be me, but I can almost see tears as he answered this question. There isn’t a comfortable answer when you have to admit that someone, or something, else will definitely beat you at something. When that something is your livelihood, and there is even a Robo-vc now, it is harder to be objective. Now of course we do not want to be paralyzed by paranoia. But we should think hard! 

What will we do when machines take over our jobs. What do we do when machines take over our lives and live for us?

 And where is the problem? Why don’t all the Uber drivers replaced by bots go on welfare and go to free community college. They can get their degree in the comfort of their home on Ng’s coursera or Thrun’s Udacity. They can learn to do something else, perhaps learn to write programs? Learn to Code as it is now colloquially called. They can take my job after that. That way I can go get my md’s and ph.d.’s and go heal people or philosophy?
(Footnote: what we don’t want to see if a flow of talented and educated people to jobs they over qualify for: coders driving Uber, md’s ph.d.’s writing code. The prevalence of this phenomenon stirs a deep dark anxiety that I cannot name. The decisions to do so are individually very rational. However it would seem to me that society’s investment in educational infrastructure to created these md/phd’s have not achieved sufficient ROI, for the society’s sake. I.e. If they train in physics, should they not attend to physics matters that the training was designed to do? And should they not be related with completely unrelated subjects? If not why do we have so much investment in physics higher education? S/physics/another subject/; again it is worrisome if society is this way but no worries for the individual or the institutions involved in this process, each of which is arguably producing maximally and with the best of intentions)

Would that be a blast? It’ll be like 24th century of Star Trek: we will have no wars, no worries about money or scarce resources. With advancement of technologies, society is advanced. We will no longer struggle against fellow man but against a greater obstacle. We will only strive to better ourselves or humanity.

Such a grand future awaits us!


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