Fourth Revolution: Why we should redefine humanity?
March 30, 2017
We all know that artificial intelligence will replace some jobs in the future. We know that it will replace non-cognitive repetitive jobs first, and ultimately cognitive non-repetitive jobs. So it is a matter of time when AI will be capable of performing any human task at a similar level than us. In multiple tasks, AI will be even far superior than each and every human on planet earth, hence the term singularity. And this will happen around 2029-2050 based on famous futurists' predictions. We should all acknowledge this opening phenomenon, but even more we should be aware of how this will affect the whole economy, our connected world.
Artificial intelligence will revolutionize individual jobs in individual industries, but the result of this revolution is a sum of every slight change in our environment. Was it in construction, transportation, education, healthcare, finance, law or even our hobbies and leisure time. Today we are able to see what blue collar jobs are replaced by robots and automation, and what white collar jobs are the next on the line, such as low level accounting and basic writing for a starter. The replacement of jobs will create some new jobs in any other area, but where and how? How does this replacement alter our actions in our economy? And how will this change develop the iterative chain we all live in? We need to start to interpret and understand the big picture of the upcoming fourth revolution. How the individual changes will shock the pillars of our combined world?
The Industrial Revolution 4.0
The Fourth Revolution or The Industrial Revolution 4.0 is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in various fields such as; robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, autonomous vehicles, and `The Internet of Things´(what a fad word). It differs from the previous three revolutions in it's power not only in it's advances in technology, but by connecting billions more people to the web, drastically improving the efficiency of businesses and organizations to help regenerate the natural environment through exceptional resource management.
The speed of advancement
We can argue from side to side the effect the 4th revolution and its cyber physical systems have on us, but we should keep our mind and options open, because no-one will be capable of predicting the future (sorry Kurzweil). But what we already know, is that advances in history are not linear, they are exponential. The change from 1500 to 1750 compared to the change from 1750 to 2015 is almost from a different planet. But its not. This phenomena can be explained by Ray Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns and the famous Moore's Law. The change in the 20th century could have been executed in 20 years at the advancement rate of the year 2000 and another century's progress in 14 years from 2000 to 2014 and later in seven years from 2014 to 2021. Ultimately a century's worth of progress could happen multiple times a year and so on. Kurzweil believes that the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th century. But what does this advancement do to humanity?
Less employees, more value
Detroit's 3 largest car companies had a market capitalization of $36 billion, revenues of $250 billion and 1.2 million employees in 1990. In 2014, Silicon Valley's three largest tech companies generated roughly the same revenue ($247 billion), but had a significantly higher market capitalization ($1.1 trillion). All of this was accomplished with only 0.12 million employees, 10 times fewer employees than their counterpart in 1990.
Source: James Manyika and Michael Chui, “Digital Era Brings Hyperscale Challenges”, The Financial Times, 13th August 2014
Analyzing the level of advancement and it's growth rate based on Moore's Law, we can easily identify the loss of human jobs in the future. But is it a bad thing? In my opinion, it depends on how will the wealth be distributed and what will conclusively be humanity's function in the future?
The move to autonomy
Let's imagine a transportation scenario in 2030; A vehicle needs to transfer a food package from the central warehouse located in the rural area to the city center. The automated warehouse receives the order as the store runs low on the product, then the warehouse system autonomously organizes the package ready for its pick up. The truck, drone or whatever receives the order to pick up the package. The vehicle has charged itself autonomously and now starts moving again, autonomously to its destination. At destination, the pickup function is maneuvered by an intelligent robot, autonomously. On the way back, the vehicle stops at an electricity charger point autonomously (lets pretend battery technology has stagnated) as the journey is thousands of miles long. At final destination, in the city center the package is moved by a robot onto an automated grocery store's (Amazon Go) storage, where the package is opened and distributed to it's shelf, again autonomously. This is already happening and it is pretty cool, but do we miss something here? Oh yes, someONE, indeed, the humans from this process.
Why are we here?
Creating an autonomous transportation or supply chain management system requires human brain power (at least for now) from software and hardware engineers and thus creating more jobs, but where are the humans from other service providers and consumers from the rest of the transportation service chain? The gas stations with store's and restaurants on the transportation route become obsolete. Who will dine or buy snacks from these services? Well, it's not the truck drivers. What about the food? If the food we consume will be lab grown or 3D printed, who will cook it? If building the warehouse or the store is done by intelligent machines, who will build it? These are just a couple of examples of the millions of questions we need to ask when predicting the future of humanity's tasks, while examining our meaning collectively and individually on planet earth. The result? Redefining humanity.
Are our tasks to spend time with our loved ones and enjoy more free time? Will the wealth be distributed with an Universal Basic Income approach or will the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? If we don't work, do we lose interest in life and become depressed? In the case of super intelligence, may we even question; why do we live?
Artificial intelligence and cyber physical systems disrupt individual tasks and systems, but how will the sum of these individual advancements effect the whole chain of the processes we currently operate in? As we all know, we are connected.