A wise man once said the following:
…they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.
Pretty good summary of the ‘Google Generation,’ huh? Anyone can tell you anything these days – provided they have a cellphone or laptop. But don’t ask them to regurgitate information without these devices…
The only problem is that this quote isn’t about Google. Or the internet.
The legendary philosopher Socrates was vehemently against writing, saying that it would destroy our ability to memorise, and would result in society churning out citizens who had access to information without wisdom.
[If you’re interested in Socrates, here’s a brief summary of his life:]
Of course, there probably have been some downsides to the development of writing. But, I think it’s safe to say, society has overwhelmingly benefited from its invention.
The Future of Technology is No Different
Technology – specifically the likes of AI, the internet and Augmented Reality – find themselves at the center of a seemingly-similar situation. Some of the brightest minds of our time are incredibly worried about humanity’s future as these technologies continue to ‘infiltrate’ our lives.
Humanity fears the unknown – and rightly so. Our survival instinct is one of our most prevalent and important traits. Death is the ultimate unknown, and so we naturally do everything in our power to avoid it (or at the very least, delay it).
So when people instinctively jump onto to the defensive when discussing technology that, in their minds, threatens the future existence of the human race, we shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, we should lean towards pride – pride in a human race that values itself enough to be constantly aware of possible threats.
The Fears of the Past, Rekindled
Think about the invention of the telephone. We look back today upon Alexander Graham Bell’s creation with delight, but can you imagine how scary it must have been back then? Suddenly a device exists that allows for virtually instant communication between parties across tremendous distances! Having grown up pre-telephone, its invention must have seemed like the first step towards a new world order…
Likewise, imagine living through the invention of the radio. Or the television. Heck, look further back and imagine the fear that electricity must have brought upon its invention. Not to mention guns.
The truth is simple – living through a game-changing invention is always going to be a fearsome time. AI, Augmented Reality, Internet of Things – these are no different.
As these technologies continue to evolve, social anxiety will rise as a result. But, as with their numerous forefathers, these new technologies are unlikely to live up to the apocalyptic-esque hype they’re being afforded.
Of course, there will be a plethora of ethical issues that must be dealt with as these technologies develop. By no means am I suggesting that we should blindly ignore any potential threats that these technologies present. My stance is simple – don’t fear them; control them.
But Brad, What About the ROBOTS?
As for the possibility of robots taking over the world, I can’t help but feel this stance is melodramatic. Fear of robots taking over society have existed for decades – way before the internet was a part of our lives. The truth is simple – as technology evolves, humans find optimal ways of slotting it into their lives, not the other way around. Those who think that mobile phones, the internet, and their brethren control us are simply wrong. Sure, some people may have unhealthy addictions to their technology, but the technology is not a master, just a vice.
Many suggest that creating better AI will put society at risk of these robots developing minds of their owns, and plotting to overthrow the human race.
Science fiction, much?
Listen, I get it. It’s scary. But the truth is that there is no clear reason for robots to harbour the ambition of taking over humanity, even if they were to develop the capability to do so.
Think about it..
Imagine, theoretically, just how much havoc humans – full of selfishness and temptation – could cause through a network like the internet. And yet, we’re still going strong. The idea of robots taking over society is one drawn largely from popular culture – if you step back and look at other technology through the lens many are looking at AI, the world becomes a terrifying place. Yet, not only do we continue to survive – we thrive like never before.
No, friends, AI/AR/IoT aren’t the beginning of the end – they’re the next rungs on humanity’s seemingly-endless rudder to efficient living. Say what you want about technology – and it surely does have numerous flaws – but it is undeniable that we live better lives today than we have ever lived in the history of mankind. And our continual rise seems unlikely to end anytime soon.