Not of Human Born

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[Shout out to “Macbeth” for the inspiration for that headline.]

In the Remain Relevant course we cover technology (obviously), specifically, we briefly explore what technology is as part of setting the table for broader exploration of content. A workable definition is that technology is a means (whether physical or logical/virtual) by which humans can manipulate their environment (whether physical or logical/virtual). 

Some fun examples of human technology (going to kick it old-school, here):

  • Stone axe (2.6 to 1.7 million years ago)
  • Language (~50,000 years ago, near as we can tell)
  • Wheel (~5,500 years ago)
  • Nintendo Game Boy (30 years ago – I know, right?)

The thing is, all technology developed to date has “reflected” us, the ideating and originating humans.  Technology was created by us, stemming from human nature and need.

That … may change.

I recently came across this article in MIT Technology Review, AI is Reinventing the Way We Invent.  The “we” in the headline is presumably referencing humans … but after one reads the article and reflects upon the content, the question may arise – given how humans have invented in the past, are “we” really inventing within this context? 

Quote of Note:

“… deep learning could offer far more opportunities for chemists to pursue, making drug discovery much quicker. One advantage: machine learning’s often quirky imagination. “Maybe it will go in a different direction that a human wouldn’t go in,” says Angel Guzman-Perez, a drug researcher at Amgen who is working with Barzilay. “It thinks differently.””

Differently, indeed.  [A quick sidebar: anthropomorphically speaking, it’s interesting how the human activities of “thinking” and “imagination” are here attributed to machine learning.  I think it’s probably the most appropriate, analogous description of what’s taking place.  But, still … ironic.]

Back to the point … just wondering … if a tool we have helped usher into existence is capable of performing tasks well beyond human capability, is its creative/innovative output “ours”?  I’m guessing that the owner of the AI/algorithm will be able to stake claim upon any intellectual property generated by said technology … but the broader question is, “does the output ‘belong’ to humanity as humans couldn’t get into that particular end zone on our own?”  Also: can we handle the output, or might this be a case of “welcome to the world of unintended consequences”?

Further, from the article: “… AI’s chief legacy might not be driverless cars or image search or even Alexa’s ability to take orders, but its ability to come up with new ideas to fuel innovation itself.”

So, here we have a counterintuitive technology that may be capable of innovating the process of innovation – formerly the exclusive purview of humanity.

Additionally: “The idea, says Aspuru-Guzik, is to use AI and automation to reinvent the lab with tools such as the $30,000 molecular printer he hopes to build. It will then be up to scientists’ imagination—and that of AI—to explore the possibilities.”

The imagination … of the AI.  Ponder that for a moment … really turn it over a few times … Rubik’s-Cube that sucker.  It gives one pause.

These developments are paradigm-apple-cart-upsetters, to put it mildly (and that’s without delving into the implied breakneck speed at which these innovations can potentially be cranked out).  As I’ve said before, if you go outside and look around, anything you see that isn’t sky, stream, stone or soil was invented by a human … and those inventions began in someone’s imagination.  Now, as we see in this article, some inventions – beyond human capability – will originate in the imagination of AI.  We are moving into and era in which we will, in part, be living in a world not fully built by humans.

[Screams into pillow … then frantically looks around for a martini.]

Seriously, though … what’s the upshot?  Where does this sort of colossal development leave us, the everyday folks?

Placing it in context, within the Remain Relevant course students learn about a competitive intelligence methodology called PEST (Political, Economic, Social & Technological).  Keeping a weather eye out for the sort of technological development covered in this article (and also considering how it dovetails with other elements of PEST) is a key activity toward surviving and thriving in the Age of Automation.  The goal of habitually running the PEST methodology is not to be overwhelmed, but rather to be informed … and to adjust one’s perspective & path accordingly, if need be.

Clearly, we’re moving into terrain where automation will be a driving, dominant, and now creative force.  It will be vastly ubiquitous at many levels (micro and macro) … many will believe that not to use it will mean succumbing to competitive forces and to sink.  As such, there will be broad adoption on many levels just to keep up.

Regardless of the terrain and tumult, the only – and I do mean only– thing that one can control in this world is one’s mind. Armed with substrate skills (e.g. practical self-assessment; broad perspectives; advanced scanning and analytical skills; applied, leveraged curiosity & creativity, etc.), one can mentally return to one’s “center” and proceed bravely forward into this new world from a foundation of evolution, authenticity, value and strength.

Yes, the world is changing in radical, heretofore unimagined ways … but hey, we’re humans.  We adapt, improvise, evolve and overcome.

That’s just what we do. Tool up.

Do you want to Remain Relevant in the Age of Automation?  If so, please have a look at the FastFulcrum courses that provide the substrate skills needed to do so: 

https://fastfulcrum.com/all-courses/