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Robots threat to our jobs, social interaction

OPINION
By Elias Mokua | Nov 27th 2019 | 4 min read
By Elias Mokua | November 27th 2019
OPINION

Technology is driving the way we organise our lives, do things and consequently invest resources.

While all this is good, there is an ethical dilemma that technology permeation in our society brings. In particular, let us wonder a bit about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its implications for job creation or job losses.

AI, in its simplest definition, is the use of human made capacities for machines to act and perform tasks for which they make decisions. In other words, automated machines are increasingly replacing people in performing tasks that ordinarily require human thinking and action. Automation has become such a big deal in developed countries that concerns on low population growth are being addressed through use of “educated machines”.

Think of this. Today, you can do shopping without talking to anybody in a mall. Parts of the world are moving away not just from cashless transactions, but also doing away with credit cards. Drones continue to replace the pizza supplier into homes. Self-driving cars powered by electricity are already in the market. As well, flying cars are being experimented and will probably be in the market in the near future. It is not inconceivable that cheap airplanes will be innovated to replace buses plying our cities.

Steadily advancing

Furthermore, the use of AI and Machine Learning is steadily advancing and replacing what human beings are supposed to be with each other. Massage beds and seats, now locally available, have taken up the jobs of massage employees. The human touch during massage is – at least by this technology- not important. The machine will do the massage obediently and on time. However, the massage beds and seats are actually not using AI but are programmed to work efficiently as designed.

AI combined with machine learning is pushing innovations further. It has been used to create machines and programmes that can predict what you want, your behaviour patterns and your likes. To this end, one can now buy a companion from a shop to be with in the house. The housemate will welcome you home when you come in, and do house chores as if it is another fellow human being. The combination of AI and machine learning produces robots.

Robots will, seemingly, sit in banks as cashiers. Robots will soon run our SGR as drivers and mechanics. Robots are now used to load cargo in parts of this world. I would actually love to see robots ride our boda bodas. Not because I want boda boda riders to lose their jobs, but because most of them push us through their aggressive behaviour so much that we wish for alternatives to the services they provide.

In the medical world, AI is used to diagnose patients right at home. Machines and special gadgets have been developed to collect all kinds of information from patients in their homes. Further, it is probable that nurses may not be necessary in low level medical support services. Robots will do that.

What we should discuss is the kind of society we are headed into. I see great potential to improve the quality of living using AI. But I also see very scary developments. The social life of any human being is strengthened and lived to the full if shared with other people, not robots and machines.

Human beings

I want to go to a bank and be served by a fellow human being, not a machine. I want to go to hospital to talk to someone about my sickness, not machines. I would like someone to cook, make juice, serve the food and together we enjoy our humanity. But, advancement in technology is inviting a lot of detachment between people.

Not only are we losing jobs to machines – although there is argument to the contrary that the machines are creating more jobs than the losses they create – but we are losing a sense of human touch.

Is it possible that machines treat us better than fellow human beings? Is this why it is easy to get into and out of a parking with an automated pay station? Is this why it is better to purchase a ticket online for travel than run through an agency? Could this be why machines are replacing people on construction sites even on low level duties?

Automation is leading us to new worlds. The more AI and machine learning is advancing the more automation is, in my estimation, destroying social interactions. For this reason, industries like entertainment and sports will thrive because these are some of the few industries where human action is still un-automated. But, what happens to our social interactions?

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