The robot revolution will make magicians of us all… or we'll be redundant.
In what ways are you better than a robot? In what ways are you worse?
I don't think anybody has any idea of the tech crunch that is coming down on society – not governments, not media, not ordinary citizens.
It's probably just a handful of geeks in Silicon Valley that are going to make out like bandits.
(And me. I'm going to get in on that action for sure.)
And for a while there, I was thinking that my job was safe. The coming revolution in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics is going to devastate the job market.
Like, Cretaceous-era level carnage.
But I thought, hey, I'm an entrepreneur. You can't teach robots how to do what I do. My job's got to be pretty safe, right?
But, I'm no rocket scientist. There's a body of experience I draw on day-to-day, but really it's pretty simple: sniff out an opportunity, crunch the numbers, pull together a team, make it happen.
If I'm honest, a good chunk of that process could be automated. A computer would do a much better job of crunching the numbers on the trillions of opportunities that must be out there.
Sure, there are some soft skills. A robot probably can't persuade an investor to tip in a couple of mill… but then, if a robot came to you and said I have a project that has an 84.4% chance of delivering a 14% return with a 2 percentage point standard deviation, you could probably take it at face value. You're probably not going to be thinking, why does this robot smell like ouzo? Is it going to piss all my money up against the wall?
(Common road block for me.)
But even soft skills vs hard skills probably isn't the right question. They're training robots to be nurses in Japan, and people seem to like them. They say the right things, they never complain, they make the appropriate understanding noises at the right time.
Turns out, some soft skills can be taught to robots.
So what is the right question?
For me, this is where it gets interesting.
Turns out, right now where we are in robotics and AI, is that some things are trivially easy, while some things are impossibly hard.
What's easy? Finding the square root of 45823903573034999213897534. For a computer that's a walk in the park. Or beating every chess champion on the planet at the same time. Yawn.
So what's hard?
Catching a ball.
Looking at a picture of an animal and saying whether it's a cat or a dog.
Understanding whether someone is joking from their facial expressions.
Turns out these things are pretty much impossible for computers right now.
As some one said (when I was reading about it a while back so sorry I don't have a reference), for things that require thinking, computers are light years ahead of us. For the things that humans can do without thinking, computers are light years behind.
This still blows my mind.
What can't computers do? The things humans can do without thinking.
The reason for that is that millions of years of evolution have gone into doing those things. Catching something or hitting a target. These are incredibly useful skills when it comes to catching food.
Being able to tell at a glance whether something is food, or an enemy, or an inanimate object. Again, incredibly useful.
Knowing when someone is about to stab you in the face, by reading their body language. Again, vital human skill.
And so we are highly optimised around certain tasks. Computers have a lot of catching up to do.
We almost never had to calculate the square root of 45823903573034999213897534 in the wild, and so we don't really have the hard or soft ware to do it.
To me I find this incredibly exciting. What it means is that the celebration of cerebral intellect is almost over.
Soon, no one is going to have bragging rights about pure intellect. No matter how brainy they'll be, they'll be nothing better than a half-wit compared to a computer.
And so what will have?
We'll come back into the things that make us special, and all of those things live in the body.
They're not in out thoughts, not even in our personality. None of that will be special anymore.
You will be special because you are an organic, self-sustaining, sensory orgy, part meat, part spirit, chokka block full of earthy goodness.
And it won't be our ability to solve problems that will make us special. It will be our ability to tap into deeper intelligences. The instincts and gut-knowings that live in the body, or the cosmic collective consciousness that gets dialled into the pineal gland or where ever it is.
Soon, we're going to stop putting any value at all on technical education. It will be a waste of time.
Rather, we will need to go back to where our specialness lives, and learn how to tap those powers.
And those powers are just so much more exciting. So much more wonderful and mind blowing.
I just can't wait for humanity to make that leap.