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πŸš€ πŸš€ πŸš— 🌍 Software is eating the world! What are we doing about it?

We are the robots - Duncan Hull

This article is just a strand of random thoughts put together to look like they make sense. The way we implement automation and the ways in which we use machine learning and artificial intelligence must always reflect our race's best interests.

It's all over the Internet. Some of us are yelling, others are screaming, and others are are #justsaying, but a lot of us are thinking about it.

Automation is bad!

Software will eat the world!

We're putting ourselves out of existence!

Robots will destroy the human race!

Are we going to be replaced by androids?

And it's kind of obvious why.

You watch the news and suddenly realise that Elon Musk is able to do synchronised swimming with his rockets. He's also able to send his roadster to space β€” that's rad, by the way! Next, they talk about Amazon's cashier-less stores and order delivery using drones.

You change the channel and now you're watching a documentary about biohacking and people implanting all sorts of stuff into their bodies.

What even tech-aficionados might have called a bit eccentric a couple of years ago, it's today's new norm. People are experimenting, big companies are experimenting, blockchain is around the corner and proving to be a great technology, everyone is developing robots!

But what are we saying "No" to, when we're saying "Yes" to automation and AI?

What about the brick-and-mortar businesses, what about the people in manual labour jobs? What about the knowledge workers who only have a job because computers are not yet strong/smart enough to take over their tasks? What do they think when they watch the news?

You could assume many of them are ignorant and they just change the channel until they find "The Kardashians" or "The Voice" or any other show that doesn't require too much cognitive effort to watch, neither triggers thoughts about the fate of the Earth, overpopulation or the future of shoplifting.

But you would be wrong in assuming that! It would be wrong because assuming most of them are ignorant is the easy way out for us. It's easy to think they should all just simmer in their own sauce. It's easy to fall prey to this superiority feeling and regard whatever aftermath might come as natural selection. History has proven to us that bad things happen when a group of people regard themselves as superior, purer, better than the rest.

Now, to circle back, my personal feeling is that somewhere around 2030 everyone will be doing some form of programming. So this means that even the "ignorants" would have to do that. Replace 2030 by "the near future" so we can get over the "Where did you come up with the number?" question.

Here are some perspectives:

If you follow Gary Vaynerchuck's online activity, you'll see he's pretty big on voice. If you ask him, he'll probably say we will program everything by voice. I would agree with him. But Gary is big on the human component. He shows a lot of empathy and is able to resonate with the human-side of technology.

If you ask a more tech-oriented person, they'll tell you it's via improved versions of our current programming languages. They're also right. We haven't changed the core of our existing programming languages and paradigms. Except for better abstractions, better libraries, and improvements such as parallel processing, which were also enabled by the evolution of hardware, nothing much has changed.

So we could assume programming languages aren't going to change a lot in the "near future". This means that we're in a somewhat comfortable position, with regards to our work, as developers.

In my perspective, it's not a matter of if it is going to happen β€” if we are going to learn to program devices β€” it's a matter of when and at what cost. I'm also including cost here, because there will be a cost.

It's the cost of educating people about the changes and helping them to somehow repurpose themselves.

Now, here are some interesting questions:

Who is going to do the programming? If everyone will, how are we going to do it? Who is going to provide the information they need? Who will help everyone make sense of the new information?

It's easy for us developers, to say RTFM. We're used to pointing people to the manual, and it works most of the times. That's because we usually deal with our own kind, other tech-people, other software developers.

But imagine telling your high school sweetheart, who is currently working on the factory floor, or in a supermarket, to go read the f-ing manual. She needs to make sense of it first. She needs to realise she's going to need a manual, then figure out where it is, then decide to read it, and then read it. Who's going to help her do that?

If certain jobs will literally dissolve β€” and they will β€” we as a global society should put our best efforts to cater towards the people currently in those jobs. We must educate them, help them see the alternatives, and ultimately create alternatives for them.

Note that the accent is on helping people see the alternatives. Currently if you ask anyone remotely familiar with automation, you'll find out they're afraid they'll be put out of work by robots. They're unable, at the moment, to see the alternative which is to put our race's endless creative energy towards developing and improving those robots, algorithms or whatever they will be.

They don't think they'll be able to create, operate and help improve those robots. They don't realise that it will, for example, help them work 4 hours instead of the 8-10-12 hours/day schedules they're working today, get a decent pay and do something else with their time.

These improvements are things only some of us β€” I'm not 100% if I should also include myself in that category β€” think of, and are able to see. To our parents, uncles and aunts, or to our high school friends who currently work in automotive, construction, agriculture, when they see robots being rolled in, people are usually being rolled out. At that point they can only think about the safety of their own job for the day to come. To them, technology is eating up the world.

On the bright side, someone said at an event I recently attended that many systems don't crash and burn, they usually evolve. I would add to that, that many "alive" systems tend to merge, evolve and grow stronger.

This is why I believe that with proper involvement from us, the ones who are driving this change, we will be able to bring a lot of the world population along with us, on this journey. We shouldn't act like a closed-circle elite. we should open that circle for all who want to join and help them realise that there are alternatives.

Photo credits: Duncan Hull β€” We are the robots