Tuesday 27th June
In my book, available on Amazon kindle only, “2066 – a personal memoir”, I explored the possibilities of a rapidly approaching future where developments in Artificial Intelligence meant that Computers were far better than humans at almost every task. The question I asked then was, what would people be for? If Computers are making better decisions than people then why should people even bother to think at all.
Well, just like every future prediction ever written, mine will undoubtedly be wrong too. But we are in some ways already there. Many processes are now automated. And can have disastrous consequences if not checked. But who is doing the checking. Example – while ordering coffee recently I inadvertently ordered decaffeinated capsules and didn’t spot it when reviewing the order. Of course, the computer accepted the order – though possibly in future it might throw up a query as to if I was sure that was what I wanted as it differed from my normal order. Actually, quite a few years ago I came up with (but I am sure I was not the only one) the idea of the human gatekeeper. That is – a human pair of eyes to look and see if whatever data you were receiving and about to process did indeed make sense.
We will soon all be using peer-to-peer invoicing, whereby on a companies’ purchase order, sent electronically of course, will be imbedded all the nominal and customer codes in their Accounts programme. When the invoice arrives it won’t even be needed to be printed. A simple click and it will not only be filed but also it will update your Accounts with all the imbedded information. Statements will automatically be checked too. This all sounds wonderful, except…..lots of humble accounts clerks will no longer be needed. And of course, if an error creeps into the system (possibly caused by a human) then it may, and indeed will almost certainly, go un-noticed.
There is the eternal question – “How much should we trust Computers?”. Pretty soon this may become “How much should we trust humans?”
I suppose that every generation fears for the future for their children or grandchildren. But I can see a possible future where either we have to pay people to do nothing, or barely anything…already happening in automated banking halls full of machines and one poor assistant helping the incompetent (well, me mostly). Or maybe the whole Capitalist System will have to evolve differently. At present, it employs people to produce products or a service and pays them less than the cost of the end product. But if more and more tasks are accomplished better and faster by computers then who will be left with money to buy the end products.
Or maybe we will go back to some sort of serfdom, where the elite rich have jobs and income and the rest work for them in some menial way for scraps.
However for the present I still believe in the human gatekeeper…imperfect and fragile as we may be….we gotta keep checking these smart bastard machines.