Monday, March 7, 2011

The Brain Center at Whipple's

Rod Serling wrote the episode which aired May 15, 1964. It is set in the near future year of 1967. Mr. Whipple, head of a vast manufacturing corporation, automates every position he can. Robots replace workers. Serling uses the standard Twilight Zone reductio ad absurdum reasoning to eventually replace the chief executive with a robot as well.

Hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.  I may not have precedence, or for that matter, any profound prescience, but at least I'm on the winning side. So, here you go. In this article, lawyers to be replaced by cheap computers. (Where's the lawyer joke?) And, in this article, pretty much anyone else to be replaced with a computer.  (And with regard to healthcare, who goes last? My money is, surgeons among the first to go, nurses the absolute last. Anyone care to wager? No. Good for you. I'll tell you why. Specialized knowledge and tasks, such as those done by doctors and surgeons, will be the first to fall to the robots. More generalized behavior, such as that done by nurses, will be harder to reproduce in silico).

Would you buy a used war from this guy?
Does this mean no more jobs? Oh, there will always be jobs. Some it's just cheaper to use people for. And I suspect some jobs we would never want a robot filling, like, for example, soldiers. 

But I have a feeling, if you can break a task down into components, you can automate it. That may even include things we would never consider as automatic tasks, like creativity, exploration, genius, random chaotic fun, curious behaviors, things that artists and authors and poets and musicians and scientists do. (No, not designers and engineers - they've already been automated).

So, is it too late for us? Nah, I don't think so.

But the minute the robots start having more fun than us, then we are doomed.

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