Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rise of the Machines!

Could your job be at risk from robots?

Technology has been displacing blue collar workers for centuries including the automobile (replacing teamsters) and factory automation (your car was built by robots).  Recently, we have seen a rise in automated checkout systems.  Smart technology is now threatening white collar jobs including attorneys.

One argument against the rise of the minimum wage is that if it were to rise, companies that typically hire a lot of minimum wage staff like the fast food industry might turn to robots.  Although McDonalds deny that they plan on moving to robots, they have a new McDonald’s In Phoenix Run Entirely By Robots.  Is this the way of the future?

What will happen to the workplace?  Will we all become button pressers like George Jetson?

Extrapolating the rise of machines and especially artificial intelligence has led to some theorizing that we soon will witness the Technological Singularity.  This would be a point in time with
the advent of "strong AI" leading to machines that are more intelligent than us.   The Technological Singularity is not a new ideas but has been popularized by  Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil (now a director of engineering at Google).  For more info see:  http://www.singularity.com/ and Vernor Vinge's 1993 essay on the Technological Singularity.

When could the Technological Singularity occur?  Vinge predicts some time before 2030 whereas others like Kurzweil predict somewhat later in time.  I think we are closer to it than we realize.

There are many who are scared of this rise of the machines, especially "strong AI" including Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking.  Elon Musk even donated $10M to the Future of Life Institute to run a global research program aimed at keeping AI beneficial to humanity.

We are now seeing articles like this from Nature on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.

Where will we be in 10 years?  20 years?  Will we be the masters or the slaves?
Will we be fighting the Berserkers like in the books by Fred Saberhagen?

As a side note, will the Terminator run Linux like 97% of the Top 500 supercomputers?

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