Machines and Humanism

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Globalization Editor at The Economist and long-term DLD friend, Matthew Bishop, set the scene for the discussion on artificial intelligence and humanism on Monday afternoon by describing a current divide in society. On the one side stand those who fear that technology is going to destroy what gives purpose to human existence. On the other stand those who are optimistic about the future technology can provide us with, many of whom come from the tech scene.

“Is the replacement of humans by machines in the work-place an opportunity or a danger” Bishop posed the question to his panelist, Chris Boos.

Chris Boos has been described as a “technology geek” and is CEO of Arago. According to the Arago website, the company’s mission is “to free up your time through the use of self-organising technology”. As such, Arago is building technology that does what people do, and thus working to put certain people out of their jobs.

Yet Boos does not see this as a threat. “I think technology is providing us with a great opportunity,” he explained. “For a long time we have made people work like machines. I think there is a huge opportunity in giving time back to people - because time is the one resource we cannot replenish.”

Boos strongly opposes the idea that humans would simply sit int the corner wilting is made redundant because of technological advancement. The CEO agreed with Bishop that we are on the verge of a large wipe-out of jobs, similar to what we saw in agriculture in the 19th and 20th century. In particular, that job wipe-out will affect people working in the tech sector, as Arago is building technology that does technology as people do. “But that’s great for IT, because as the techies lose their jobs, they get better jobs the next day,” Boos said.

Another industry he could see as being ripe for this kind of intelligent automation is medical diagnostics. At the moment, there are separate experts for heart problems, immune troubles, hormonal imbalances and so forth. “But your body doesn’t come in this separate parts,” Boos justified his vision of automated medical diagnostics.

Where he didn’t see automation having a big impact on job numbers is the service industry. Boos said people like to interact. While front-end jobs are therefore in growing demand, those in the back-end are up for automation.

Boos’ optimism about individual entrepreneurship could hardly be overlooked when he said once people stepped off the “hamster wheel” or their full-time job they could spend their time on more useful tasks, like solving climate change. Bishop interjected by saying that at the moment the economy is one where we have a “winner takes all solution”, with one person reaping huge financial rewards while most go home empty handy. Boos dismissed this point by saying the fault there lay not with technological advances, but with our out-of-date economic system.

Artificial intelligence developer, Arago, recently received about $55 million from KKR.

Mentioned in this live blog

Bishop matthew quadrat
Matthew Bishop
The Rockefeller Foundation
Managing Director
The Rockefeller Foundation
New York
Chris boos bw
Chris Boos
Founder & CEO

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