This recent posting from the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies is one of the more thoughtful among recent reflections on the increasingly popular topic of robots replacing human workers. Like so many of these, however – especially those articles with clever calculators embedded in the story – there may be too much emphasis on jobs as functional and outcome-oriented. Something needs making, or doing, or transporting: and robots are getting better at delivering these outcomes.
But the Daily Mail calculation that waiters and waitresses have a 93.7% chance of being automated ignores the fact that the cornerstone of the service industry is that a human being is doing the serving. Marketing promotions can be built around robots filling in for people; orders can be automated; and some restaurants even reckon they are moving edgily on trend by asking customers if they have “eaten at Gobfiller before” (as if those customers are about to enjoy some sort of transformative experience) before telling them that the customers must serve themselves.
Before assessing the chance that any service economy job is going to be handed over to a robot, we must calculate the extent to which humanity itself is implicit in the delivery of the service. It is one thing for AI to access and impart information: quite another to simulate the human experience of its empathetic exchange.
Lively Stuff from Planet BAM!
- How are we getting on with the neuroscience of immortality? Best answer: very slowly
One statistic from this New York Times piece sums up nicely the scale of the challenge in mapping the human Connectome – the wiring diagram of all the neural connections in the brain and nervous system. The only animal to have had its connectome mapped so far is a small worm with 302 neurons, as against a human’s 100 billion neurons, and even the mapping of a worm has not enabled us to simulate or replicate its comparatively simple behaviours. And yet, in a companion piece by the same journalist, the human cost of the hopes raised in the gap between dreams and reality is made startlingly clear – and this is without even broaching the philosophical dimension of preserving minds, as against brains; or the potential gains in incremental extensions of life without aiming for the big money shot of living forever.
- Alphabet soup: the BBC provides a good ABC of AI
Useful for serving up some of the issues and controversies along with the facts and figures
- Neuroenhancement in a pill: television fiction explores the limitless potential of the mind
- And on the subject of trailers, an amusing horror movie spoof starring Siri
And another one with Siri caught in the middle of a domestic argument . . .