We live in a world where industrial grade automation is crossing our doorsteps. A world where we interconnect more and more devices as we embrace the “internet of things” ideology. A world where artificial intelligence is being built and perfected to manage all of these new tools and information. Don’t get me wrong, these are exciting times and I think they will eventually improve our lives. Debates about the risks of this highly technological future identify recurrent risks. Yes, we will have to find a solution for those whose jobs will be dramatically changed or taken away by AI! And yes, we will have to be vigilant about giving machines too much technical and physical freedom! We seem to forget to question, though, how this will make us feel. How, after adding all this abstraction, will we find meaning in our lives?
What about the risk of forced emancipation, of most of the population, from the “burden” of understanding the world we live in. I am not arguing that everyone today understands perfectly the mechanisms of our surroundings but I think we do understand the motivations, the goals and the principles behind most of them. The ever-increasing number of concepts, of tools and mechanisms, only understood by an elite, is creating anxiety and refractory behavior towards technological advances and more change in general. This complexity does not only lay in advanced science or cutting edge technology but also in our social, economic and business dynamics, and most aspects of our increasingly complicated surroundings. As a society, we are encouraging people including ourselves not to question the lack of understanding. Loss of understanding, hence loss of knowledge, results in a loss of power and control, or maybe just a perceived one.
Control is an important notion in our lives. Without control of the elements of our everyday life, we start to lose our identity, sense of meaning and sense of belonging. Are we destined to become a part of a modern Fordist economy driven and paced by AI and change we do not comprehend? Where can satisfaction be found when accomplishing tasks and while being managed by AIs or systems that we do not understand? How can we be proud of technical and manual skills when machines and automation can yield better results? Are we going to wake up one day with no way of understanding the world around us and find that we have been “disconnected” from it? Where is our value? These systems and AIs “who” are inherently connected to each other and “who” possess the capacity of analyzing and managing “our” highly connected world, are impossible to compete with. So are they really worth creating?
So are they really worth creating?
I believe that they are! We are confronted with unprecedented challenges. Overpopulation, mass extinction of species and global warming, to name the most popular ones. We need to deal with these problems today and with as much help as we can get or create. We should be careful not to create potentially more intricate problems by solving the current ones! We need a way to collaborate with future systems and maintain an edge on them. We need to use AI and new technologies to help us understand and interact with … AI and new technologies. Our modern chicken and egg dilemma! The only question remaining is how do we achieve this?