When I heard about the book “All Our Wrongs Today,” I knew I was going to love it. The protagonist is from the *future* we imagined with flying cars and Jetsons-worthy tech, but in 2016. He messes up his father’s time traveling machine and ends up in *our 2016* and discovers it to be a dystopia compared to his 2016. Near-future dystopia and tech is all I need to get me hooked.
Fortunately, I did love the book, but thankfully, it wasn’t exactly what I expected. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but it’s a love story, too. That theme is a little stronger than what I personally believe, but it’s been a recurring thought for me as I dive deeper into the world of tech.
With the massive growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies, there is some fear/excitement that automation is going to take over so many jobs (read: not take over, only take over jobs). I know that automation is going to help rid the world of mundane jobs, there’s no way it could take over human services entirely. That’s because of love.
I don’t mean love in that it’s possible to love a robot (Plankton and Karen were enough, but this went too far), but the love of humanity. People aren’t innately cold and automated, but have feelings, concerns, and passions towards other people. People have cultures, values, traditions, and trends which have yet to be replicated by deep learning.
I’m no engineer like the techies I work with, but there is a difference between machine learning and deep learning. Chatbots and other digital assistants can be taught a variety of if-then statements that allow them to respond to different prompts and triggers.
At the most basic level, I think of IMing SmarterChild when we were kids. We would try a variety of messages to see what kind of responses we could get. Everything was programmed, and while SmarterChild seemed smart, he was simply following his code.
Fast forward, and now we have Amazon Echos and Google Homes. While they are digital assistants, they are programmed to have skills to respond for different purposes. Whether it’s playing Despacito for you on Spotify for the millionth time or telling you if it’s raining outside your office, it’s not thinking intuitively like a person. My team builds skills for these digital assistants, and it really only takes a day to build a new chatbot for any company.
Deep learning, on the other hand, exists in minor forms currently. Whether it’s Netflix suggesting what you watch next or Google suggesting search queries, machines are able to make more educated guesses about what you want. It’s not perfect, and while these algorithms are slowly improving, they’re not perfect and will never have it spot on.
I personally believe that even the deepest learning capabilities will not be able to compare to the human mind. Especially with marketing and advertising, professionals play into people’s hearts to sell brands. Of course, technology will enable bots to serve you exactly the ads you need at exactly the right time that you need them. That hasn’t yet been accomplished by any human accurately, period. However, bots won’t be able to craft the witty ads and personal marketing efforts.
If you ask any digital assistant for a joke, they have a few already programmed as skills. They typically suck and prove that engineers aren’t the funniest guys (sorry hehe). Still, they are programmed by people.
One of the most classic marketing/advertising examples that will be taught by professors forever is when the Superbowl Blackout sparked Oreos’ incredible and viral meme. Maybe automation would have helped create the actual design faster and show it to the right people faster, but a human had to think of that witty response.
Or, consider how website design has changed over the years. User interface and user experience (UI/UX) are relatively new and rapidly growing industries of human expertise. Are these designers realizing how humans prefer to operate online, or is it all one big experiment and humans are going to change their user habits over time? How is user experience going to change once everything is mobile or whatever is next?
Automation can rid us of banal Excel sheets and other tedious tasks, but humans still have the creative mindsets to tap into human emotion. To a certain extent, technology is about progression and ridding the world of excess. But, emotions are not excess and drive the way humans live and enjoy life. Innovation will continue to thrive at an exponential rate, but arts and humanities will continue to be a driving force of the way we enjoy our innovations.
Hopefully, it won’t require multiple apocalypses like “All Our Wrongs Today” to realize the importance of humanity. Read it, and let’s chat about it.
++ Mary K