The footsteps of two of them are heard. They are running and one of them is chasing the other. The boy in the front is panting and is determined to avoid being caught. There is dopamine rush in his body and he could almost feel the lactic acid flooding. He turns back to see whether he has to gain ground but then he slips and falls on the grassy grounds. With giggles of joy, he turns back and a humanoid touches him and says that he is out. A personal bot rings the alarm and wakes him from his sleep as if it wanted to spoil his sweet dream.
Are we smiling when we are reading about a glimpse of our future? It is a question that, if answered precisely, could improve the lives of billions worldwide. If there is anything in the world that cannot be changed, that is “change” itself. Our world in which you and I are living is changing and will continue to change. We must change to meet the requirements of our changing world.
So far so good
The current generation is introduced to screens at an early age but the silent generation was introduced to computers. When computers were introduced, people were apprehensive of their impact. As an example, let us look at the banking sector. People were unaware that in developing countries such as India, they preferred to go with the usual grind of tokens and handwritten vouchers even though computers could do the same job error-free and in approximately one-tenth of the time. There was pervasive anxiety that computers would take over their jobs and, in fact, computers did take over some of the jobs. The number of teller positions has come down significantly and a new type of job has replaced that of a teller. We, as we are right now, would not disagree with the view that computers do help us in our work and lives.
The change in technology has brought a change in people. There was a time when Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) was a symbol of status but today if someone who does not have a smartphone feels isolated from the whole world. PDA companies were replaced by smartphone companies. One thing we learn from the past is that as technology advances, our ability to function more efficiently in our roles improves. Consider the value of time and think about who would sit and count every single currency from a strap when there are customers waiting in line to be served? We use currency-counting machines. One additional skill required is learning to operate a currency-counting machine.
The change has driven humans to grow along with the change in the past. The tasks today are simpler. However, the skill levels demanded are more sophisticated. We do not need a woodcutter and a saw to cut a tree today, we need someone who can operate a chainsaw or woodcutter machine in order to do the task. As technology advances, more jobs will vanish and be replaced by technology that results in the creation of new type of skill sets. Something new to the world is not bad when you familiarize yourself with the “new”. Every time there has been a change, there have been significant improvements in the efficiency in the discharge of a particular job function.
Times change but are we willing to change?
For instance, if I tell you that I did not prepare for this essay, I am sure no one would be willing to read this. Why? Because preparation is the key. When we are not even willing to read something, which is not prepared, we simply cannot expect not to be afraid of the future, which we are not prepared for. I would be foolish if I say robots are not coming for our Jobs, I would be even more foolish If I am not prepared. If I am not prepared for the worst, I am preparing myself to lose but this time I will be losing to something and not to someone.
History repeats itself but differently with a certain degree of similarity. When guns had come into wars, fighters and warriors became soldiers. Everyone was aware that a war was coming. People had to learn to use a gun or be dead. The ones who had won the war were the ones who were prepared for the war. Similarly, workers became employees. When machines came to take over the jobs of the workers, they learned to operate the machines and took over the war between man and machine. If being prepared helps in change, learning helps in preparation. History has taught us that we have the capacity to learn. We can evolve our thoughts. We are social animals. We live among each other, with each other and a part of each other’s lives. A lot of vast change has taken place in history but one thing that has not changed is that we need each other to live. Cave man used hand signs to signal, modern man uses handphone to communicate.
There has been tremendous growth in any field we can name, such as Economics, Human Resources, Marketing, Operations, Finance and the list goes on and on. The consistent and constant factor in all the fields is “us”. We, as social beings, do not like a threat and we tend to respond to threats. Responding rationally and irrationally is still a choice. We have to make a choice. Where do we like to stand when this phase is over? This is a question, which has not been answered by billions worldwide. If we need to change, are we willing to change? Change is something persistent and so are we, persistent social beings.
Catching the eye
We stand out in all circumstance that there is something in us that none of the living creatures in the world has. Some call it powers of the mind, some call it sub-conscious mind and some will come up with another fancy name. In simple words, I would put it as “Imagination”. Here is the deal. Innovation is the answer to the question why we industrialized our lives. We did not industrialize to destroy. We industrialized because we had a vision of what our lives could be. We innovated our visions of seemingly impossible goals and cultivated them into fantastical realities. At our core, we are dreamers. Imagination allowed us to shape the world. Sometimes, we lacked foresight but we never lacked imagination. Imagination may lead us to our own destruction, but it also may be our only hope for saving the diverse life on Earth and ourselves by finding a way out to any existing or emerging seemingly intractable problems.
Creativity is not an answer here. We are good at thinking outside of the box. We can connect dots even when there are no connections. In other words, we are good at seeing the big picture. It’s the ancillary silos of an industry that spark creativity and innovation. “Having biologists solve chemistry problems, ballet dancers show football players the best way to “dance” the line, and theatre actors work with Fortune 500 CEOs to reveal their humanity are a few things that robots are not able to think of. Entrepreneurs that can utilize old solutions to solve new problems or that can magically see the future won’t be replaced anytime soon.” 1 And pushing the envelope into the unknown is still something that only we can do.
A robot does not lack creativity and in fact, robots are slowly creeping up on us. Utilizing related word searches, robots can find alternative interpretations of your sentence and figure out what you really meant. Sometimes, robots can figure out creative ways to do what we may believe to be impossible. Dr. Vijay Kumar from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science showed the world that Flying Robots are programmed to figure things out. When the robot needed to fly through the door with a payload, it quickly realized that its total height, plus the payload, was too long for the actual height of the door. Then with a bit of trial and error, the robot realized within minutes that it could fly through the door by dropping the payload off first and then flying itself through. That is creative enough.
Creative success and commercial success are not always the same and the robots can help us figure out elements of what might be a commercial success (the Oscar winner and highest grossing movie are usually different). “For example, David Cope from UC Santa Cruz has a robot named Annie that he trains with the masters of classical music. Her compositions cannot be distinguished from those of humans.” 2 In other words, robots are good at knowing the rules of the game and figuring out ways to bend them or to find the optimal moves. But we can still figure out new games to play, like combining the fields of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology with medicine in the company, Kitcheck, or creating a movie such as Inception as opposed to another superhero sequel.
Imagine or simply create?
We are dreamers because we can imagine. Imagination is unique to us. We can daydream (imagine) when we are awake and dream (imagine) when we are asleep. We also have common sense and gut feeling. If there is a list of things which cannot be programmed, then imagination will definitely top the list followed by common sense and gut feeling. Intelligence could be artificial but intelligence will be actual if and only if there are imagination, common sense and gut feeling. A computer helped me to write this by correcting my grammar, checking the spelling and punctuating the sentences but it is my imagination of the future, common sense of a sequence of event and gut feeling you will make you smile when you read this essay in black and white.
It is not wise to say that computer has taken away my task of writing an essay. It is logical to say that the computer gave me access to put my thoughts (imagination) in a cloud space and gave me access anywhere and anytime. I chose when I wanted to put my thoughts and decided how I want my thoughts to be put in black and white. If I was in the old-fashioned way of writing in pen and paper, my job would have been taken by a machine by now. I am using a keyboard to type the words now and in the future, I might be doing the same using my voice and later on it might be just my thoughts.
If technology was a timeline, it started with imagination and will stop at imagination because artificial intelligence without imagination is like an octopus on roller skates. There is a lot of movements but there is not progress or a definitive direction of action. Even when I think (imagine) the future of writing essays, the progress stopped with my thoughts (imaginations). Imagine an archer has many arrows in her quiver and wants to hit a bullseye. All she needs is one sharp arrow. Let us say she has two sharp arrows and all her other arrows are blunt and none of the other archers have sharp arrows. She has to use one of the two sharp arrows in order to hit her target.
The answer is simply to let our imagination free like eagles above the storm. Let our imaginations fly when robots come for our job instead of hiding in a temporary shelter from the storm. If there is a humanoid to play with my child, let it play with my child while I imagine for new solutions for my business and making my life simple. I will continue to dream while I am asleep and imagine while I am awake for solutions and let the robots come up with a creative way to reach that solution while I put my thoughts for the solution for next matter.
Yes, I am smiling when I am reading about the glimpse of our future because we will be one step closer towards the Art of living, which is making our lives simple. Allowing robots into my work makes us focus on things that matter. Let us all wake up and prepare for the future. Let us be ready not to work and not to simply create but to live and to imagine. You are imagining right now, aren’t you?