I hold in my hand a stick, which our ancestors fashioned into the earliest form of technology, a spear for hunting. Man’s ability to invent solutions to problems and create tools to make life easier is what truly separates us from our other primate cousins.
Physical labour is now primarily done through the use of our mechanical creations and everyone in society is better off as a result. We become free to pursue our passions, specialise in new types of careers and we can begin to improve the living standards and general wellbeing of everyone.
However, with each piece of technology we create, we lose a piece of human agency. By and large this isn’t a bad thing, with time consuming laborious tasks no longer our responsibility, we can focus on intellectual pursuits, develop new ideas and enrich our culture more readily.
However producing useful tools is one thing, the problems arise when we create a technology industry that becomes obsessed with introducing tech-based solutions to every problem, robbing us of important skills we once cherished and attempting to solve problems that don’t exist.
Mobile phones are fantastic inventions for communicating over large distances, but then we go and create narcissistic social media networks that simply addict us to the form of the technology and provide very little useful functionality.
We can literally see how crazy the tech industry is from some of the ridiculous things that come out of Silicon Valley. A smart plug for turning lights on in your home when you could just get up off your ass and do it yourself. A smart cup that tells you what liquid you just poured into it, a lady’s vibrator that offers a dashboard with stats and charts. There are software engineers writing algorithms right now that will replace software engineers in the future. This is like digging your own grave and then lying in it.
Artificial general intelligences, known as AGIs are on their way and they will be capable of replacing human beings at almost every level. Algorithms are writing music right now, they can write news articles and soon they’ll consume white collar industries with sophisticated cloud-based super computers. In May of 2014, a Hong Kong-based venture capital firm called Deep Knowledge Ventures appointed an algo (algorithm) to its board of directors. It can analyse big data and make investment decisions accordingly.
General purpose robots will be irresistible to employers because they work tirelessly on just a few watts of energy, no salary or health benefits necessary. I’m not exactly sure how anyone in the future will be expected to buy a self-driving car when they will be made redundant by automation.
Human beings set out to take a stick and fashion it into a tool for hunting, what they didn’t bank on was the slippery slope toward total replacement of our species by machines. Even Elon Musk fears humanity may be nothing more than the biological boot loader for a digital intelligence. Was everything we created, every tool, every car, games console, dishwasher, hair dryer, smartphone, washing machine, light bulb and aircraft just another gradual stepping stone towards the creation of a mechanical, digital cyborg replacement species?
Humanity needs to invent tools to overcome the challenges that our world throws at us, but when the tools become alive and begin thinking for themselves, what need do they have for humanity?
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