How do you feel about the incredible advancements in the world of technology and artificial intelligence? Some innovations enhance our lives by making things easier and more convenient. Nowadays who could imagine life without the updates and improved functionality of our phones, with Sat Nav and the internet, all readily available to support our daily lives.
Robotics are used automatically in assembly lines, order picking and undertaking tasks that are perceived as routine, tedious or too dangerous to be done by humans. But there are greater and more impressive advances constantly being made in the world of AI. It can write poems and novels, create images undetectable from the real thing and create deep fakes. When you hear The Beatles singing Beach Boy songs they never recorded or see computer-generated photos or interviews do you find it amusing or sinister? What’s happening today would never have been thought possible or permissible decades ago. It’s the stuff of old science fiction novels.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which works on brain to computer interface, has recently been given FDA approval to study brain implants in humans. His company’s remit is to remedy paralysis, but research always has the potential to evolve and diversify into other areas away from the original brief.
Reliance on someone or something else always comes at a cost. We’ve moved on from mental arithmetic, reading maps and searching the streets for a payphone. But, is it progress when we’re trusting a computer to provide answers and are not as fully ‘on top of things’ as we might once have been? Where do we go from here? How much autonomy do we give to a computer programme or a set of algorithms simply to make life easier, quicker and save us a task?
What about the drawbacks, the price we pay for such advancements?
Years ago there were major concerns about the loss of livelihoods, the lower-paid jobs that would be lost through automation and technology, resulting in significant unemployment. With the increased use of automation and robotics how many more people will be made redundant, so losing their value and relevance to society?
Being usefully employed is not just about earning an income. There’s a sense of purpose as well as the social connections that are reinforced by having to get up each day, dress and leave the house, as well as regularly turn up on time. Relationships are made, challenges are faced, responsibilities and new skills learned. Without outlets for work and human engagement mental health and loneliness could rapidly become an issue.
Of course, over time many of our relationships evolve naturally. And since the pandemic people have reduced the times they commute and spend in the office, with fewer casual in-person exchanges and more business-focused online communications, using Zoom, Face Time, You Tube and email to connect. Those relaxed exchanges with familiar faces in supermarkets have largely gone as we shop increasingly online. Introducing AI as a replacement for humans in the workforce has been justified by saying that it offers an improved quality of life, with more free time for sport, hobbies, family and friends, time to adopt new interests and less need to work as hard.
But, this results in a loss of skills too. How many of us do mental arithmetic, read a map, pay attention to our spelling, punctuation and grammar, monitor our health and sleep or work through ratios and problem solve as we used to do? We rely on machines to do much of this for us and yet, do we ever question who provides many of the data programmes we rely on?
Who sponsors the information we so readily trust?
Initially we may not be unduly concerned. It may well be okay to not have to work things out or pay attention to where we’re driving or what’s happening behind the scenes. But whilst it may save us time and free us up to do other things there’s a need to sometimes pause and reflect on how much of our power we’re freely relinquishing. How much personal responsibility we’re being blasé about abdicating!
When we read about machines being programmed to think for themselves, to evolve and enhance their knowledge and skills, to self-repair, it becomes clear that they are gradually becoming independent of any human input. Many AI experts, including Elon Musk, have expressed the need for caution as AI becomes potentially cleverer than the humans who created it, improving and doing more than it was programmed to do, shedding its limitations.
Is that okay for you? To think less and have certain skills and critical analysis become defunct, as we rely on machines, allowing them to make our decisions and choices, all in pursuit of an easier life.
Susan Leigh MNCH (ACC)
South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer and media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She’s author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon and with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.
To order a copy or for more information, articles, or to make contact please call 0161 928 7880 or visit www.lifestyletherapy.net