The inspiration for this post comes from this article I stumbled on online. I was particularly drawn to a sentence that the writer of that amazing piece on artificial intelligence made: that we are simply organic machines whose parts can be replaced when they break down or fail to function as expected. I remember stopping at that point and thinking about that statement for a while. The nascent entrepreneur in me envisioned a world where we could have a choice of upgrading our organs with new ones fashioned from our stem cells if we so wished. There are biotech companies growing bone in labs. While there is a lot of controversy on growing human parts in labs, and tweaking human genes to eliminate congenital diseases, I suspect that we will soon reach a tipping point and the world will have no option but to get along with the program. Such is the way of revolutions.
We have certainly gone through many changes in the past two hundred years. From simply riding pesky horses to driving sleek automobiles to sending rockets and satellites on an almost daily basis into space. The world is constantly changing, and it needs men and women who are able to spot these global trends and respond appropriately. I have also watched an interesting documentary on what computers, robots and artificial intelligence will be able to do for the human race.
My mind has been constantly teeming with the possibilities that this new information and technology presents, but like a bird of prey faced with a swarm of bats flying out of their caves, it is hard to focus on one solitary bat and swoop down for the kill. I feel like I’m standing on quicksand, moving from one position to another before I can even understand the implications and consequences inherent in each position. What will happen for millions around the world who dutifully run on the expensive treadmill of higher education only to find out that their entry level jobs have been made redundant by robots and machines that can do their jobs more efficiently, consistently and cheaper than they ever could? Should they go back to school and get more degrees (not likely). What is the way forward in such a situation? Not many people think about these things, secure in the misguided notion that computers will always need human beings to direct them (which is increasingly turning out to be a false assumption. Fewer people will be needed in virtually every field of business, health and industry as AI takes root in our lives. Question is where the majority of the 7+ billion people will find meaningful work to put food on their plates).
We are on the cusp of a momentous revolution in history. It might not come tomorrow, or next year, but it is certainly on its way. We should stop operating from a national mindset when borders and cultural boundaries are rapidly being destroyed. Global citizenship is the way to go, as can be evidenced by the rise and rise of the global upper class. While I might not have the kind of disposable income that comes with being able to afford multiple trips to other countries, the internet has provided a viable alternative, at least for the time being. It is amazing to be able to interact with some of the brightest minds of our time, without having to pay thousands of dollars to go seem them live in action. I have heard great minds explore their theories on TED, all from the comfort of my small room in a backwater estate in Nairobi. My eyes always light up when I come across some new tidbit of information that opens my eyes further and allows me to see associations between fields and things that would not have become apparent if I hadn’t come across that piece of information. Clearly, being an expert generalist is the way to go in this new world order.
We are organic machines, and right now we are at the top of the food chain. We have complex interactions with each other, interactions that have led to the creation of the political state and the global economy. While it is highly improbable that our own creations will usurp our dominance at the helm of power, artificial intelligence means that our strategies cannot remain as they were five, ten or even twenty years ago. We must also evolve, and learn how to leverage all these brand new and effective tools that have suddenly sprung up, seemingly out of nowhere.
The sad thing with us organic machines is the fact that we are often ridiculously slow in accepting change. It often takes huge world events to shake us up and steer us in the right direction. We had to go through two depressions (1870s and 1930) and two world wars and a cold war before we could fully accept the industrial revolution and share its fruits with everyone in the world. If history is a suitable indicator of the future, it will take something almost similar for us to wake up and realize that it is not business as usual.
In the meantime, those who are wise should be preparing themselves to take advantage of all these new developments in healthcare and business and industry. Make a commitment to constantly update yourself with current trends. Constant improvement will put you at the cutting edge of global thought and innovation, far removed from it as you might be. What I really love about this age is that a cat can indeed look at a king and live to tell the tale.
We might not yet be part of the global upper class that is really enjoying the latest advancements that have been made so far. That doesn’t mean we can’t also utilize these tools to make our lives easier, cheaper and more efficient, leaving us more time to understand the machinations of the organic machine (this is what I presume to lie at the heart of all innovation and enterprise).