IEET > Rights > Economic > Technological Unemployment > Fellows > Kevin LaGrandeur
Does this robot want your job?
Mar 24, 2017  

Join us on Facebook Live for a discussion with NYIT Professor Kevin LaGrandeur as he argues that the real threat to American jobs isn’t flesh-and-blood foreign workers. It’s robots and computers.


Yes, of course robots and computers (rather than immigrants) are the major reason for reduced overall human employment. However, if we learn from the lessons of the Luddites we will surely realize the futility to resist such developments.  Rather we must take pains to adapt to these changes as best we can.

Folk still seem unable to break free from the traditional science fiction based notions involving individual robots/computers. Either as potential threats, beneficial aids or serious basis for “artificial intelligence”.

In actuality, the real next cognitive entity quietly self assembles in the background, mostly unrecognized for what it is. And, contrary to our usual conceits, is not stoppable or directly within our control.

We are very prone to anthropocentric distortions of objective reality. This is perhaps not surprising, for to instead adopt the evidence based viewpoint now afforded by “big science” and “big history” takes us way outside our perceptive comfort zone.

The fact is that the evolution of the Internet (and, of course, major components such as Google) is actually an autonomous process. The difficulty in convincing people of this “inconvenient truth” seems to stem partly from our natural anthropocentric mind-sets and also the traditional illusion that in some way we are in control of, and distinct from, nature. Contemplation of the observed realities tend to be relegated to the emotional “too hard” bin.

This evolution is not driven by any individual software company or team of researchers, but rather by the sum of many human requirements, whims and desires to which the current technologies react. Among the more significant motivators are such things as commerce, gaming, social interactions, education and sexual titillation.

Virtually all interests are catered for and, in toto provide the impetus for the continued evolution of the Internet. Netty is still in her larval stage, but we “workers” scurry round mindlessly engaged in her nurture.

By relinquishing our usual parochial approach to this issue in favor of the overall evolutionary “big picture” provided by many fields of science, the emergence of a new predominant cognitive entity (from the Internet, rather than individual machines) is seen to be not only feasible but inevitable.

The separate issue of whether it well be malignant, neutral or benign towards we snoutless apes is less certain, and this particular aspect I have explored elsewhere.

Seemingly unrelated disciplines such as geology, biology and “big history” actually have much to tell us about the machinery of nature (of which technology is necessarily a part) and the kind of outcome that is to be expected from the evolution of the Internet.

Very real evidence indicates the rather imminent implementation of the next, (non-biological) phase of the on-going evolutionary “life” process from what we at present call the Internet. It is effectively evolving by a process of self-assembly. The “Internet of Things” is proceeding apace and pervading all aspects of our lives. We are increasingly, in a sense, “enslaved” by our PCs, mobile phones, their apps and many other trappings of the increasingly cloudy net. We are already largely dependent upon it for our commerce and industry and there is no turning back. What we perceive as a tool is well on its way to becoming an agent.

There are at present an estimated 2 Billion Internet users. There are an estimated 10 to 80 Billion neurons in the human brain. On this basis for approximation the Internet is even now only one order of magnitude below the human brain and its growth is exponential.

That is a simplification, of course. For example: Not all users have their own computer. So perhaps we could reduce that, say, tenfold. The number of switching units, transistors, if you wish, contained by all the computers connecting to the Internet and which are more analogous to individual neurons is many orders of magnitude greater than 2 Billion. Then again, this is compensated for to some extent by the fact that neurons do not appear to be binary switching devices but instead can adopt multiple states.

Without even crunching the numbers, however, we see that we must take seriously the possibility that even the present Internet may well be comparable to a human brain in processing power. And, of course, the degree of interconnection and cross-linking of networks within networks is also growing rapidly.

The emergence of a new and predominant cognitive entity that is a logical consequence of the evolutionary continuum that can be traced back at least as far as the formation of the chemical elements in stars.

This is the main theme of my latest book “The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill” which is now available as a 336 page illustrated paperback from Amazon, etc.

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