So What If You Had More Time?

Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are going to render many jobs obsolete. Copy and paste that sentence into your search engine and prepare to be freaked the hell out. In addition to links to a multitude of articles, at the bottom of the first Google search page:

Searches related to Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are going to render many jobs obsolete.

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The anxiety around what it will mean for us human beings is not helped by the movies that have come out over the years, from Skynet in the Terminator franchise and the machines taking over in The Matrix to Pixar’s animated Wall-E.

 

The Apocalypse

Many of these films, like Terminator, The Matrix, Blade Runner and iRobot, have an apocalyptic take on what the future will look like as AI, automation and robotics evolve. And, in the tech, science and innovation world, many leading thinkers are calling for a more tempered and deliberate approach to the field. One such individual, who has been called a leading doomsayer on the perils of artificial intelligence (Vanity Fair, Elon Musk’s Billion Dollar Crusade To Stop The A.I. Apocalypse.

He wrote, in a comment on Edge.org, ““The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. Unless you have direct exposure to groups like Deepmind, you have no idea how fast—it is growing at a pace close to exponential. The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. 10 years at most.”

At MIT’s AeroAstro Centennial Symposium, he said, ““I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. I mean with artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon.”

And it isn’t just Musk. Stephen Hawking is quoted as saying, to the BBC, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

Also, tech columnist Nick Bilton wrote the following in the New York Times, “The upheavals [of artificial intelligence] can escalate quickly and become scarier and even cataclysmic. Imagine how a medical robot, originally programmed to rid cancer, could conclude that the best way to obliterate cancer is to exterminate humans who are genetically prone to the disease.”

Check 28 Best Quotes About Artificial Intelligence piece written by Bernard Marr on Forbes for additional thoughts.

 

How We Use Time

I do not consider myself informed enough to have an outright opinion on A.I. but what does concern me, from an African perspective, is the potential for us to be left further behind as more and more jobs become automated. While I, in reality, will probably be fine, the fear is that, for the majority of Africans who are still working in the kinds of jobs that will be automated and do not necessarily have the access to be upskilled into the new jobs that arise, the impact is potentially devastating.

I also wonder about what automation and robotics will do for us as human beings in general. There are some who argue that technology is making us lazy and that this will only get worse. In Wall-E, the humans, after leaving a devastated planet Earth, spend their time sitting in lounge chairs on a drifting space ship, never walking, glued to screens.

I am fascinated by time and how we use it. In the last few years, I have devoted a lot of time to exploring how to best use my time. It is my main criteria for determining what projects and the like that I get involved in. In 2014, I left my last full-time job and wrote a post titled I Quit My Job For My Children. It isn’t always easy and, at least to date, it is a juggling act – responsibilities, time, family, self, etc. Sometimes, the decisions you make may not seem directly in line with getting more time but rather to ensure that you can, frankly, pay bills.

But, when you get more time, what you do with it is as important. In a recent discussion with an associate who is quite high up in a multinational, I was struck by this. We were talking about automation and how it has the potential to give us more time, as the more tedious, administrative tasks are taken off our plate. He then said, what is great about this is that he has more time to work more, whereas my view was that it would give me more time to live.

Work is part of life but simply living is as important, in my view. And, therefore, with more time, I am able to read more, spend time with my family, go to the movies, learn a new skill, pursue what could be called ‘passion projects’, write more books, etc.

So? What would you do with more time?

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