I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots, and Your Motorcycle – the A.I. Debate Continues
(Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Lionsgate Films, 1991)
If you randomly ask someone, “Are you afraid of artificial intelligence?” you may well get a response like “Well, um…” followed by some mumbling, with an undertone of dread.
A few weeks ago, we posted “Artificial Intelligence: Boom or Doom?” about the May 4th panel debate in London, where concerns about A.I. were taken up by a panel of experts, composed of:
- Roger Trapp, Moderator, formerly of the Financial Times and the Independent on Sunday.
- Mark Bishop, Professor of Cognitive Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London
- Dan O’Hara, Senior Lecturer in English, New College of the Humanities
- Steve Mason, VP of Channels at ClickSoftware
- George Zarkadakis, Novelist, Science Writer, and Digital Transformation Consultant
The discussion was wide-ranging and, among other things, took up the subject of fear of A.I. They say if you can face your fears, you can defeat them. But of course you have to first be able to identify them. So what are our fears of A.I.? Are they backed by reason or are they just neuroses? Which fears are shared by all or most of us, as opposed to just my or your personal phobias?
Way up there on the fears list is the prospect of losing our livelihood to a pile of silicon, microchips, and a bit of titanium who can think quicker than us, work faster than us, and even look better than us. Next thing you know … it’s the boot!
At the end of our last post on the London A.I. Panel Debate, we included a questionnaire asking about readers’ fears as to whether they thought they were going to be made redundant by A.I. The results?
61% of respondents believe that a machine cannot replace them as a worker.
8% of respondents believe that a machine could surpass them as a worker.
31% of respondents would rather not think about it
If we group together those who admit to the fear outright with those who can’t face even thinking about it, that’s well over a third of the respondents with concerns of being replaced by a machine on the job. That’s a lot! And it begs the question: Are these concerns well-founded? According to the panelists at the London debate, it’s not so simple. Let’s take a look at their comments and see what light they shed on this.
Firstly, George Zarkadakis pointed out that we must first consider the parameters of the realm of “jobs” itself as A.I. plays a bigger and bigger role.
Moderator Roger Trapp asked Mark Bishop and Dan O’Hara if their views differed as academics. Both agreed that the field of education is no exception in its vulnerability to A.I. replacing people’s jobs, as well as how the jobs are done.
But not so fast! While as Dan O’Hara concurred that the traditional classroom style of education may well diminish, for those working in the field of education, he believes it may be less vulnerable than other areas, because the type of retraining needed will require people capable of a higher education.
Steven Mason had a different perspective altogether. He sees A.I. as not necessarily taking jobs away, but actually saving and even creating them by levelling the playing field, both locally and domestically:
As for ourselves, at ClickSoftware, we believe that it’s not Artificial Intelligence itself at issue, but what you do with it. According to our research, as presented in Artificial Intelligence: Working Hard So We Can Hardly Work, 87% of iPhone users use its virtual assistant, Siri, on a monthly basis. Yet, Siri still isn’t integrated into daily life. That’s why we took things a step further with our “Butler” assistants – integrating them throughout the entire field tech’s work day. Butler Services are context-aware, live alert apps – that remind, prompt, act, and perform particular functions to help the field technician have a smoother and more productive day.
My personal favorite is the “Customer is Angry” Butler Service App”. Who wouldn’t want a heads-up that the customer who’s about to door on you is #*@# furious? ClickButler alerts the technician before he gets to the site – in time to take a few deep breaths, put on a helmet, buy flowers … whatever it takes to help that unhappy customer calm down. That is, IF you know ahead.
Hey, which field technician wouldn’t want to be reminded to take the tools from the van before they climb up to the 10th floor?
Here is a typical scenario in the workday of a field technician using our Butler Apps:
Upon starting the day, Frank the field technician, logs in for the day… [and] ClickButler simply states: “Your first job is at Ivy bank at 1 Main Street. Would you like navigation instructions?” Upon touching: “Yes”, the turn-by-turn travel instructions start automatically. Next, ten minutes before arriving at Ivy bank, ClickButler prompts: “Your contact people at Ivy bank are (A), (B), and (C). Touch the one you wish to call”. Touching (C) will automatically connect to the Contact List app to get the telephone number of (C), and then will activate the Phone app, by dialing Mr. (C) who will greet Frank at the reception desk.
(“The Story of an English Lord and His Butler” Prof. Moshe BenBassat)
Safe to say that most people would gladly accept a tool that makes their work easier and more rewarding. Certainly your customers will be happy to have the technician arrive on time, with the right tools and get the job done the first time around. There’s no fear here of losing a job – only making it easier and making you more efficient.
To come full circle, our assessment is: Sure, there’s going to human jobs that are taken over by machinery. But that’s really nothing new since the invention of the wheel, is it? – not to mention the spinning wheel, the cotton gin, the tractor… Does the fact that A.I. entails machinery that’s a lot more intelligent make a significant difference? In some cases, perhaps. In others, it’s a matter of how it’s put to use – namely as artificial assistance. Just imagine if Arnold had had a Butler. He’d have had that motorcycle in a flash, and without all the chit-chat.
I know what you’re thinking: This is going to wrap up with some cheezy line like “Hasta La Vista, Baby”. I wouldn’t waste your time.