The idea of cyborgs running the world may seem like science fiction but may be becoming reality sooner than you think. No, there will not be an epic world war of us versus them. Instead, the shift from human to automation is slowly creeping into our society.
Think about it. Automation is already running assembly lines and even surgeries. From ATM’s, pay-at-the-pump, self check-out, self-serve kiosks, order and pay at the table in restaurants, and all of the banking, shopping, record sharing, reading, socialization that takes place online, computers are already taking the place of humans.
With the greatest minds of this generation, from Bill Gates to Elon Musk, stating that artificial intelligence is one of the biggest threats to humanity, another visionary is drawing the same conclusion.
Yuval Noah Harari, professor of history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and best-selling author (“Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” actually recommended by Bill Gates) and lecturer has long predicted that machines would one day take over our society. He says that the “destructive power” has begun, as artificial intelligence (AI) has already outperformed humans in many areas. Artificial intelligence needn’t be more intelligent than humans, just be able to outperform them.
I’m aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It’s basically the boy who cried wolf. But in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time.
A recent study in Narrative Science states that by the end of the decade, 16% of American jobs will be replaced by AI. Gartner Summits states that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human. Other recent studies show that 99% of accountants will be replaced by AI, 98.3% of umpires and referees, 93.7% of wait staff and 94.5% of legal assistants and paralegals. This is just the beginning.
Harari writes in his newest book, “ Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” that as humans become functionally useless and lose economic and political value, they will turn to drugs and virtual reality to escape. With the number of eyes hypnotized by smartphones and the rising drug epidemic, this seems like a cause for concern.
Children alive today will face the consequences. Most of what people learn in school or in college will probably be irrelevant by the time they are 40 or 50. If they want to continue to have a job, and to understand the world, and be relevant to what is happening, people will have to reinvent themselves again and again and faster and faster.
In the next 200 years, Harari predicts a radical societal shift. Using biotechnology and genetic engineering, the very wealthy will take over, transforming themselves into a divine, immortal human with control over life and death, according to Harari. He says that these “God-like” cyborgs will be the “biggest evolution in biology.”
Harari believes that until now, society has been glued together by inventing what he considers “fictions:” religion, money and the idea of fundamental human rights. As long as humans relied on gods, they were controllable. Statistics have shown a decline in religious affiliation through the years.
But what we see the last few centuries is humans becoming more powerful and they no longer need the crutches of gods.
All is not lost. Humans have abilities, physical and cognitive, that make them useful. Actually, currently 93 million people in the United States are unemployed and yet considered useful. However, as a society we must prepare for this trend and take this threat very seriously. Humans cannot be complacent. Harari believes that it must be part of the political agenda to “decide the future course of humankind.”
First of all, take it very seriously. And make it a part of the political agenda. This is something that shouldn’t be left to scientists and private corporations. They know a lot about the technical stuff, the engineering, but they don’t necessarily have the vision and the legitimacy to decide the future course of humankind.
As the self-made gods of planet Earth, which projects should we undertake, and how will we protect this fragile planet and humankind from our own destructive powers?