Don’t get used to your job. According to Yanki Margalit’s recent talk at LOGIN Startup Fair, a robot will be replacing you any day now – but is he right?
Throw on some pajamas, kick back, and relax, because in a few dozen years, humans won’t need to work at all. Although a bit premature, this advice might just become a reality, suggests Aladdin Knowledge Systems Inc. founder, Yanki Margalit.
In a presentation Margalit recently gave at LOGIN Startup Fair 2015 – organized by Enterprise Lithuania and Startup Lithuania – he explained his outlook for the future, a world of “homo-sapiens 2.0” where technology will no longer be a mere extension of humans, but rather what he calls a total “integration of carbon and silicon.”
Observing his audience with a maniacally optimistic smile, Margalit says, “I look around and see several hundred electronic computers … and several hundred biological computers in front of me. And those two platforms today don’t really connect. They will connect.” This connection is the foundation for Margalit’s gaze into the future, which for him contains an increasingly intimate relationship between man and machine.
In many ways, that future is already here. Margalit introduces the concept of synthetic biology, which is essentially the ability to use computers to program life. He quotes scientist Craig Venter who contends that, “The digital and biological worlds are now becoming interchangeable.” Five years ago, Venter and his team of researchers successfully designed a synthetic genome in a computer, chemically produced it, then transplanted it into a recipient cell to create the first ever self replicating cell controlled entirely by a synthetic genome.
If humans have the ability to create genuine life forms with a computer, can we create a computer that is a life form in itself?
Margalit predicts that in the years to come, computers will become intelligent to the point that they will have sophisticated, programmable personalities. Even today, artificial intelligence (AI) is exceptional. Margalit introduces the story of Watson, IBM’s artificial intelligence system that won Jeopardy. IBM says Watson’s next task is to help medical doctors make decisions, which Margalit interprets as AI eventually replacing medical doctors. He predicts that in ten to fifteen years, we will be seeing fewer and fewer medical doctors making decisions.
Is the AI hype worth worrying about?
Although it is conceivable, Margalit might be jumping the gun with his AI hype. Philosopher and scientist Douglas Hofstadter puts Margalit’s somewhat outlandish predictions in perspective. “Current models of intelligence are still extremely far away from anything resembling human intelligence,” he told Geektime. His thoughts on Watson also fall far short Margalit’s appraisal. “Watson doesn’t understand anything. It is just good at grammatical parsing and then searching for text strings in a very large database.”
Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk shares Margalit’s high expectations for the potential of AI, but spins it in a negative light, saying that AI is humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” However, computer scientist and author Jaron Lanier sees this threat as fallacious. “I propose that the whole basis of the conversation is itself askew, it’s a kind of non-optimal, silly way of expressing anxiety about where technology is going,” he said in an interview with Geektime.
Still, intelligent robots have undoubtedly taken on roles traditionally filled by humans. Margalit cites Curiosity, the Mars roving robot, and X47B, the U.S. military’s next generation of unmanned drones, to show how robots have become the new explorers and soldiers. He believes that 3-D printing will improve to one day replace traditional human builders.
Margalit next highlights Google’s self-driving car, and points out the not-so-far fetched idea that robots will eventually drive all vehicles. Autonomous trucks, he points out, are now legal in Nevada, and he foreshadows the day when when only a fool would trust himself or herself more than a computer to get behind the wheel.
As the professional value of robots and humans comes closer to equalization, Margalit senses that a new challenge will face his generation and the next. He says, “I think that the greatest challenge of our generation and the next generation, is to create meaning without work. Too much [for] our generation what you do, your job, is your identity. We are now going to a new generation where you cannot define your identity by what you do.”
Fret not if you have soiled yourself at the idea of a future where computers have replaced humans in all professional capacities, because a judgment-free robot will be waiting for you with tissues and an artificial yet reassuring smile to clean you off and send you on your flabbergasted way.
Or, if Margalit’s assumptions do not come to fruition, you always have a life of work to look forward to.
You can take a look at Margalit’s entire presentation where it was initially published on Startup Lithuania‘s website.