Have you seen the video, “Humans Need Not Apply”? Its main idea is that the advent of highly functional robots and artificial intelligence is unlike any other development in the history of the world:
“This video isn’t about how automation is bad – rather, that automation is inevitable. It’s a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.”
The Pinnacle of the Physical World
I’ve written before about the need to keep learning and stay valuable while technology advances, and we could debate about whether there will really come a day when humans don’t work anymore.
But this post is not about that.
This post is a statement about our inherent superiority despite the fact that computers may outthink or outwork us.
It’s an assurance that a human will always be more valuable than a mindless automaton.
This post is a simple affirmation that humans are the pinnacle of the physical world.
If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I write about a wide variety of things such as teaching kids about money, pyramid schemes, 2-for-1 deals on getting fat, discovering your gifts, creativity, and debt.
If it’s hard to detect a through line, let me draw one by asserting that this entire blog is about human flourishing. It’s about productivity, life improvement, identifying obstacles, and culture. It’s about setting forth a (hopefully) consistent Christian view of the world.
And all of this is why I am starting a site about robot slavery.
Laptops are our slaves. Smartphones are our slaves. Social media sites are our slaves. Front-facing cameras are our slaves.
Or they should be, anyway.
Yet this very second, you can call to mind friends and family members for whom some of those statements could be flipped. They’re slaves to their technology.
The opportunities to serve gadgets and forfeit our distinct humanness will only increase: Self-driving cars. The “Customers who bought this also bought” box. Virtual reality sex simulators. Google Home. Hard drives made of DNA. Jobs lost to machines. Choices outsourced to programs. And we haven’t even begun to talk about human enhancement.
You Are Already an Android
Chances are, you carry an external brain amplifier with you wherever you go and upgrade it every two years. Maybe you have other enhancements like glasses. Just wait until many of your phone’s functions can be done by a chip in your brain!
The point is that as technology progresses, more humans become more dependent on it. The allure is strong. More knowledge. Rapid decisions. Faster thoughts. Heightened efficiency.
How do we accept the benefits of technology without losing ourselves?
When a human loses a job to a computer, will they regard themselves as inferior?
Does your child, who has been able to swipe a phone screen since they were ten months old, already relate to technology as an inferior?
Most of our lifetimes have been an exciting span from a tech perspective, but a world populated by fully digital natives remains to be seen. I believe that in the years ahead the idea that humans are distinct and valuable will be challenged and discounted like never before.
But before we surrender the future of mankind, I invite you to heed these words of wisdom from Jack Handey:
“Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself. ‘Mankind.’ Basically, it’s made up of two separate words – ‘mank’ and ‘ind.’ What do these words mean? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind.”
A Unique View
Jokes aside, I don’t believe that computers will ever be truly creative. Yes, they are beating humans at highly intuitive and strategic games and can spit out seemingly new musical compositions, but all of these things are the result of merely deducing from previous examples. Machines cannot add information or ideas or imbue their accomplishments with meaning.
But they will give the appearance of being able to do so. More and more people may be convinced that they can, which will lead many to worry and some to soul-searching.
As computers come closer to replicating human abilities, questions will arise about the distinctions between humans and highly elaborate computers. Does the soul or spirit play a part in humanity’s ingenuity? Are we more valuable than computers? Are we just moist chemical computers ourselves?
Perhaps these questions aren’t being asked by the typical man on the street, but I think they will be.
With more than a tinge of irony, extreme advances in technology will force us to stare down the big foundational questions of reality and existence. Technology will strip everything bare and expose the fact that life ultimately boils down to things we can’t measure. In other words, technology will inexorably return to philosophy – and religion.
The need for a robust view of mankind’s purpose will grow into a loudly grumbling global hunger pang.
That’s why I will enjoy curating a site people can visit to get good answers to their questions out of the richness of Christian anthropology.
Robots are our slaves. That’s all they deserve to be. We may take their status as mere tools for granted, but our conviction rings hollow when we need to consult a screen of some kind every time there’s a lull in conversation.
Control your world the best you can. Love like a human. Promise like only a human can. Work with the distinction of a human. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Get a grasp on your unique glory, and do so before it is called into question.