To Summon the Demon or Not To
By Roger Jihao Yang

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Are you familiar with the ‘Hosts’? A recent science fiction TV series ‘Westworld’ from HBO explores a futuristic story in a fictional and a technologically advanced wild-west-themed park called ‘Westworld’ populated by humanoid robots called ‘Hosts’.

Interacting like real humans, the hosts are programmed to fulfill the guests’ desire. The high-paying human ‘guests’ may indulge in their wildest fantasies within the park without fear of reprisal from the hosts, who are programmed in a way that they cannot hurt humans. The world gets topsy-turvy when the robots start remembering their past ‘lives’ and get revengeful on those who took advantage of them. This leads to a discussion on the ethics of human-robot interactions. Will the humans need to take a moral stand to ensure that robots are treated well? Or, should we stay prepared for a not-too-distant war of Intelligence?

Are we Handing over Our World to the ‘Hosts’?

The pace of development in the area of automation, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been accelerating in the last decade. Many futurists believe that in the near future, humanity will be threatened or even taken over by robots. In 2017, Masayoshi Son, the founder of SoftBank warned “the Singularity is coming” and predicted that in 30 years smart robot population will be 10 billion, on par with the human population. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, addressed Artificial Intelligence as the biggest existential threat to humanity. A concern lurks in people’s minds that the scenes from the “Westworld” will mirror themselves in the real world if humans don’t limit Artificial Intelligence.

AI: A Boon or a Bane?

Humanoid robots in Westworld are a typical example of Strong AI, which is also called as Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). They can think, learn and behave exactly like a real human. Current technologies are still far away in achieving strong AI, especially in the areas of emotion, consciousness, and creativity. Majority of current AIs are weak AIs, named Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) as well, which can do one or more intelligent things to address specific use cases. For instance, AlphaGo can only play the board game ‘Go’ although it can beat the best human ‘Go’ player. Robots in the manufacturing plant can only execute defined routines in production or assembly line although their productivity and quality are higher than human workers. Weak AI is good at automating repetitive and routine jobs. It has relieved the humans of the repetitive tasks, thereby improving the living quality and boosting economic and social development.

Humanity is creative and intrigued by technological advancements. Until the true “demon” is summoned, the humans will hold on to their optimism that there is still 1 % possibility that there isn’t a threat or there is no ‘Demon’ at all. This Chinese adage sums up the essence of this optimism – ‘’Don’t give up eating for fear of choking’’. The West puts it in a slightly different way – “Don’t throw away the apple because of the core”.

Replacing Humans or Facilitating Them?

While it is a matter of solace that AI won’t be a threat to humanity at least in the next decade, it is foreseeable that AI will replace an array of jobs – customer support, financial analyst and may be a truck driver?

–     Co-exist with AI to fully leverage the benefits

Trying to compete with AI isn’t a good idea. There will be a time we need to accept that human beings may never be able to do the math better than AI, drive a truck or airplane or do the heavy labor work better than the robots. The solution is to co-exist rather than compete with AI. The solution lies in leveraging AI as an efficient tool to help you achieve better results and higher productivity.

–     Be the creator

Creativity is an inherent human nature and acts as one of the key differentiators. With the progression of technology and automation, we can free up more time for our creative pursuits and incorporate AI to further strengthen and help unleash our creative side.

–     Invest in developing your Emotional Intelligence

Emotions form the very essence of our existence. Love, care, compassion and empathy are irreplaceable by AI or machines, at least not in the near future. It is of utmost importance to be mindful of emotions and improve one’s Emotional Intelligence.

–     Learn for life

Lifelong jobs are vanishing. Self-driving cars are the new entrants who would throw millions of car drivers out of their profession. Welding workers in automotive production are almost replaced by smart robots. Instead of betting your job’s existence before your retirement, it is better to invest in yourself by learning new skills and acquiring expertise. It’s a lifelong journey of continuous learning to stay relevant with the exponential technology development. The real intelligence lies in ensuring that you equip yourself to sustain the invasion of Artificial Intelligence or even a more advanced technology to come.

About the Author:

Over 14 years evolving experience in software industry across different roles with proven records in global operations, team management, program/project management, quality management, and consulting

This article is one in a series related to the 10th Global Peter Drucker Forum, with the theme management. the human dimension, taking place on November 29 & 30, 2018 in Vienna, Austria #GPDF18

The author thanks Divya Chandrika Mohan for a helpful review of this article.

This first appeared in LinkedIn Pulse

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