We are entering a new age, an age when technology is set to take over many of the jobs and careers that were once seen as stable and secure. The new era has been labelled as the 4th industrial revolution and is likely to be the biggest jump yet in the way we use technology. It is estimated that in the next 20 years we will see more changes in technology than we have seen in the previous 2,000.
A sudden change in lifestyle
In the new technology era many of our daily transactions will no longer be with another human but with a machine. Amazon have already started to introduce stores where there is no human to serve you. Self-driving cars are almost here which will dramatically change how we use transportation possibly ending the era of actually owning a motor car. There have been numerous stories of AI machines diagnosing patients far better than the best skilled doctors.
With so many advances it begs the question what will be the role of humans in this new world we are entering, and how will humans find meaning to their lives?
Currently we go through a defined pattern in life; We start school at around 5 years of age in which we learn the basic skills we need to establish a career. At 18 we go to University to fine tune those skills towards a chosen career. So, what happens when we have finished University and find that we are not just competing with other potential graduates but with AI machines which can do the job faster and more reliably than we can?
AI has the potential of on one hand improving our lives beyond our wildest dreams, but it may well come with a very heavy price as the skills we have learned to negotiate our way through life will become redundant. With machines having more influence it will force us to question what it actually means to be human.
With AI challenging and even superseding our cognitive abilities, what do we have left?
It has been suggested that future machines will be so advanced that they will even be able to read our emotions. By studying our facial expressions, the tone of our voice, our body language a machine will know when we are angry, sad or excited. But can a machine actually feel those emotions? This is the part of the human experience which a machine is very unlikely to be able to replicate and so whilst it may be able to take action when it sees your different emotions it will never be able to truly empathise with you.
Taking it a stage further, a machine would have a lot of difficulty replicating the human touch. Plenty of research has been done on the effects of human touch, especially a hug. Being hugged by a machine will never replace the feelings we get from being hugged by another person.
Can empathy become the new human currency?
In our brave new world where AI has taken care of most of our daily needs it begs the question, what is the future of material wealth. When driverless cars arrive using an app on the phone, everyone will have access to the same vehicles, we will all have access to the same AI lawyer and healthcare. At what point does wealth become almost meaningless? Is this the point when we start to re-connect with our human empathy? Will this be the time when a human is measured by their empathy rather than their wealth and status?
Nobody can ever reliably predict the future, and nobody knows for sure the impact that AI will have on the human race, but like any major change their will be tough times but also opportunities. One such opportunity will be for us all to re-connect with each other using the one human quality that a machine cannot truly replicate; our empathy.
About the Author: Steve Emery is a current MAPP student at Bucks New University. Whilst not studying he runs a small business in Leicestershire supplying various instrumentation to both Industry and Education. Steve is very passionate about Positive Psychology and is looking to spread the word through a series of talks and workshops through his company subsidiary IDS Positivity