Machines in our Family - Random Reasonings

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Machines in our Family

Ever since George Lucas introduced us to R2D2 and C3PO in the first Star Wars movie in 1977, the idea that machines with artificial intelligence protocols could be part of our lives has been pretty much accepted.

With the growing number of smart homes that can connect all kinds of  household gadgets, appliances, and machines through wifi control, we are gradually and steadily inviting machines to play a bigger role in our daily lives.

As of 2023, statistics indicate that about 60.4 million U.S. homes are actively using smart home devices.

Back in 2009 I was given a Roomba vacuum cleaner that sat on a recharging platform. I could activate it and it would zip around my apartment cleaning my carpets and floors. It was kind of a pain,  however, because I had to take it apart and clean it every time I used it.

Eventually the battery wore out, wouldn’t re-charge, and the expense and hassle of returning it for a new battery was more than I wanted to deal with so it went to the waste recycling center.

Recently my husband bought me a new robotic vacuum cleaner for our beach house. It’s the latest model iRobot and I love it. Actually, it’s become more of a “he” to me than an it, part of the family.

I named the machine. His name is Robie (the last name of Cary Grant’s character in the Hitchcock movie To Catch a Thief.) I think it’s an appropriate name because like the cat burglar in the movie, Robie just stealthily moves around the house doing his job.

When he’s finished, he goes back to his charging station all by himself, cleans himself, and recharges to be ready to go the next time we need him. He’s a sweetie!

When Robie arrived my husband used his is iPhone app to guide the machine through the mapping of our house, room by room so he knows the location and shape of each room. Now all I have to do if a room needs cleaned is say to my husband, “Honey, will you have Robie clean the kitchen?” He sends Robie the message from his phone and in seconds there he comes, zipping along making his way to the kitchen.

I love the cute little sounds he makes as he moves around. They make me smile. Robie cheers me up. And in some peculiar way, it makes it possible to feel affection for a machine.

Robie has a “sister” at our beach house. She’s a little older, not quite as smart, and she lives downstairs. Her name is Lexie. Lexie cleans the downstairs. Occasionally my husband will say to me, “Uh oh, gotta go downstairs, Lexie seems to be stuck on something.” And off he goes to take care of her.

Our two little robotic helpers make it really easy for me to think about all the other ways artificial intelligence and smart machines are being developed to improve our lives.

Recently Forbes magazine published a study and projection from the World Economic Forum Report that by the year 2025 approximately 85 million jobs now done by people will be replaced by new generations of machines with artificial intelligence.

Some of those lost people jobs will actually open doors for new people jobs required to manage and oversee the work done by robots. But people will need to train for the appropriate skills and not everyone will have the desire or aptitude to do that.

From the beginning of industrialization, advances and inventions have moved tasks from manual to machine. This is just the latest iteration of those cycles. People will need to reinvent their lives and their skills to keep up with changing times. Change is part of progress.

But the fact that more than 130 million workers, globally, will need to be retrained within the next three years, due to advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, is a daunting task. What will they be retrained to do? The U.S. part of that number is 11.5 million workers.

These new advances could also wreak havoc on government revenue. Robots don’t get paid. People do. And people’s salaries generate payroll tax, income tax, social security tax and more that fund government coffers. With governments at all levels bogged down in slow bureaucracy, you can bet they aren’t prepared, or preparing, for what’s ahead.

In the meantime, consumers are loving their new devices. 

The biggest deterrent to using them, however, is the learning curve to set them up and get them working. Ease of setup is the number one thing consumers want. Once set up they want devices to work as promised. That doesn’t always happen.

And that’s where new jobs for people should be developed. There’s a huge need for good customer support.

Tech companies that don’t provide knowledgeable people to help with questions and problems aren’t going to make it. By retraining people to explain AI and robotic technology to those having difficulty with their gadgets, there is a big new job market for those jobs lost to the technology in the first place.

“As more and more artificial intelligence is entering into the world, more and more emotional intelligence must enter into leadership.” Amit Ray

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  1. What if the end state of these trends turns out to be a world where ALL labor is performed by machines/systems/non-human means, where humans are solely consumers of goods and services, and not providers of them? Is this the road we’re on?

    Assume if you will AI (particularly the machine learning subfield) successfully ushers in human-free mining, human-free manufacturing, human-free logistics, human free everything such that human beings would no longer be employed at all, even for educational purposes. Further assume if you will issues of sentience have been been resolved. In such a world, why would we need money – or any other medium of exchange – at all? How would the concept of property ownership change…would it even be relevant? How would an individual’s stature within the resultant society be determined?

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