Transformational technologies like the wheel and the printing press have had a profound impact on human beings, it is safe to assume that artificial intelligence will have a similar impact. However, before we can ascertain how disruptive these changes will actually be we should ask ourselves some fundamental philosophical questions.
Do you view the world in terms of dualism or monism?
Dualism takes the view that the universe is composed of two interacting materials — Physical and mental. Plato speculated that there is a world of ideas that contains things the physical world does not, such as a perfect circle. In that, a truly perfect circle will never exist in the physical world, but such a thing can exist in the realms of human imagination.
Monism is a stark contrast and is sometimes more commonly known as materialism. It presents the notion that since everything in the universe is composed of atoms, everything is subject to the same set of physical laws.
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Even in our dreams, the feelings and identities we experience are all the result of our brains synapses and molecular reactions. With Monism, everything can be broken down into the same basic building blocks, be it a human being, a laptop or even a parsnip.
Do you believe humans to be machines, animals or humans?
If you take a mechanistic standpoint you will see the driver for people as chemical reactions, and that both the body and mind are sustained by fuel in the form of food. According to this view, we are all machines, no different from a computer.
The animalistic view suggests that humans are inhabiting a biological world that is separate from machines. Whilst machines can take on human-like qualities, they are fundamentally without life and lack the mysterious force that animates humans and other animals.
Finally, the humanistic view sees human consciousness and the soul as the differentiating factor between humans and machines. As the Dalai Lama once said ‘Humans are not machines. We are something more. We have feeling and experience’
With these questions in our mind, we can make predictions on how AI & robotics could shape our future.
According to mechanistic and monistic principles, AI is expected to leave humans with no jobs. If we are no different from machines, and if we subscribe to the notion that we are made of entirely the same material as everything else in the universe, the is no reason why a machine could not do everything that a human does. In doing so machines will become so sophisticated that they will do everything better than humans, whether it is recording music, writing a movie, or being prime minister.
If we take a look from an animalism and Dualism perspective, it would suggest that not all jobs will be taken by robots and AI. The contributing factor to this school of thought is that since animals are fundamentally different from machines, there will be certain human jobs that machines are incapable of doing. Dualism accounts for this further by suggesting that a mental world exists that machines cannot gain access to, so ultimately this will become a safe haven for humans and untouchable by machines.
Even with this perspective, a far greater amount of jobs will be taken over by AI than will be created by it, sectors like service, retail and delivery will be particularly disrupted. Even professions requiring further education like accountants, paralegals and doctors will be replaced by AI. The only remaining jobs for humans will be ones that orientate around social skills and emotional sensitivity.
Finally, if take the humanism-dualism approach, it would suggest that there will still be plenty of jobs available even with the presence of AI. If humans are indeed different from both animals and machines, then logic would suggest we are always more capable of doing certain jobs than robots. So as automation takes over many jobs, new jobs will be created that are more specific to human sensitivities.
As we stand on the brink of a new technological era, it is important to be aware of different beliefs and biases that shape conversations and predictions about the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence.
Whilst it is uncertain what the future holds, there are definitely reasons to be optimistic about it.