Man v. Robot

I’m a dork.  I’m open about it, and I’m pretty flaming when it comes to my dork identity.  One such fixation I carry with me as a result of it is an interest in science fiction, and my particular favorite from that genre is apocalyptic scenarios when machines take over the world (along with zombies).  Well, unbeknownst to most of us, it’s already happening.  Specifically algorithms, the mathematical formulas responsible for everything from the pricing on Amazon to the selection of movies on Netflix, are becoming in increasingly present, albeit unknown, factor behind the scenes for us in day to day life.

An example?  The sudden and severe drop in financial markets that we saw in 2010 that resulted in a massive sell-off.  A trader entered a ‘b’ instead of an ‘m’ into a sell order for shares of Procter & Gamble.  The computer executed the trade, thus flooding the markets with many, many more shares of P&G than either the market could handle or it could possibly handle.  The sudden fall triggered a massive sell-off in other automated trading systems that operate on what is the equivalent of autopilot.  For a period of a few minutes, before humans reasserted their authority over financial markets, the entire global financial system was on a sudden, downward, violent race to the bottom.  It was stopped only when the systems were taken offline, corrections were made, and markets began their normal behavior again.

I don’t think that man is ever going to be obsolete.  We’re becoming ever more technologically advanced ourselves, be it by better medical technology (pacemakers, artificial joints, better medicines, and the like) and some say that peripheral technology will eventually be implanted into our bodies specifically so that we can have the equivalent of a smartphone that’s visible in our own field of vision, without having a handset.  I’d recommend the movie ‘Transcendent Man,’ a view of the future as described by futurist Ray Kurzweil.

So, I’m operating off of a hunch.  By another name,  you could call it faith.  And it’s something that you can’t prove.  Nor can you disprove it.  But let me ask you this: Would you fly a plane that’s flown by a computer program?  Or would you have open heart surgery performed by a robot that’s governed solely by a computer program?  I’d venture to guess that you’d say no.  And the reason for that is that these technological entities have no sense of perspective.  And that’s something you simply can’t quantify into an equation.  Only humans have that capability.  At least for now.


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