I recall the debate in the 1980s and ‘90s concerning robots taking over our lives and the world.
Movies like “Terminator” and “The Matrix” didn’t help much.
Did they take over?
Well, not really. But kind of. Robotic vacuums came out in 1996. It was the company Electrolux that first introduced the robot vacuum called the Trilobite. Do you have a robot vacuum? I do, and I really like it, even though programming it can be a bit of a hassle. It’s pretty cool. Robotic vacuums are powered by artificial intelligence (AI), but that doesn’t mean my vacuum is smarter than me. I don’t think so, anyways.
Let’s talk about the relatively new world of AI and what technologies such as the ChatGPT chatbot mean for us — or don’t.
Google now has AI interaction, as does Microsoft. Do we know what the outcomes of AI running rampant might mean? No, not really. However, according to what I found while researching, back in the 2000s, Oxford University published reports saying that 47% of jobs would be eliminated by automation.
This never happened. In fact, because of advances in computer science and technology, more jobs have been created than eliminated.
Back in the mid-1980s, I decided I needed a skill in my back pocket, just in case the ministry and counseling didn’t pay well. I returned to tech school and got an associate’s degree in computer robotics.
I was thinking electronics were up and coming and would probably advance as time went on. It turned out there were not many jobs in computers or robotics at the time, so I ended up repairing electronics, mainly computers, VCRs (if you’re not sure what a VCR is, look it up) and television sets. During my time in tech school, my lab partner and I built a robotic arm that could swing a bat. That was the extent of my robotics experience, although we were trying to figure out how we could get toilets to flush automatically by a laser beam. How I wish now we had pursued that idea.
I don’t think AI will ever end up like HAL 9000 in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” that came out in 1968. HAL turned on the astronauts because he thought they were going to shut him down, which was their plan. HAL, it turned out, could read lips and discovered their scheme. Way to go HAL! Well maybe. Oddly enough, however, in 1968, a group of scientists were laying the foundation for what would later become the internet. Those watching the film in 1968 found it odd that characters in the movie could talk to a computer. But look at us talking to Alexa, Siri and Google through voice interfaces.
Will there be a time when AI computers or robots rebel against their creator as HAL did? Maybe. Could be. But probably not.
Let’s face it, AI is here to stay. In the future, demand for AI skills will be very high. But so will demands for other skills, too, like the social sciences. After all, we still long for human contact even if we interact a lot with robots. That’s just being human.
AI, I am confident, will not lead us to global chaos, but it will lead us to a different world. We are afraid of AI because we don’t understand it. But just as nuclear science has led to the atomic bomb it has also led to incredible uses for the betterment of mankind. Like NMR scanning, cancer treatment and a ton of other good things. Like atomic science, AI can be a force for good. AI is used for a lot of really cool things right now — like fraud detection. Credit card companies can protect us from credit card theft by spotting fraud in real time. Noise-canceling headphones also use AI. These headphones help us enjoy music without outside distractions.
Let’s embrace AI and use it for the betterment of us all.
If you haven’t tried ChatGPT, Google’s Bard or Microsoft’s Sydney, try them. It’s fun and interesting. You may be surprised at what the new AI chatbots can do.
Richard Stride is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.