The biggest selling product on Amazon this year was the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. For those of you who don’t know, this a voice activated smart-speaker which can play music, stream podcast, make to-do lists and can act as a home-hub controlling other smart devices, by interacting with the controls for your heating and lights. It responds to the command “Alexa” and can even tell jokes and bed-time stories, to a degree. Many companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon are racing to develop “smart” technologies, including self-driving cars. Uber’s popular taxi service is surely going to be the leader in the self-driving car market. I guess this is why they are promoting their human controlled taxi service in the first place. But do all their current taxi drivers know that they are helping to create the market which will then abandon them for the ‘safer and cheaper’ self-driving option? Ever since the first hominid picked up a lump of stone and turned it into a hand axe technology has been with us. Though it is debateable whether the change from a hunter gather lifestyle to farming was a big lifestyle improvement for early farmers, the embrace of technology has improved our lives and sometimes, but not always, resulted in more leisure time. In the years ahead we will have to face up to a changing society, where technology takes an even bigger role than it does now.
With the advent of the computer age we are also being asked to come to terms with the idea of artificial intelligence. This humanity has explored through fiction and films and now increasingly in reality too. IBM’s Deep Blue computer was the first to beat a reigning Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, in 1996, largely through the use of brute computing power. IBM has since developed Watson, initially for the challenge of winning the American game show Jeopardy! which it did. Watson has also proven to be very good at assisting clinicians in developing treatment pathways for some patients. One of Watson’s developmental advantages over Deep Blue is its use of natural language, which to be honest, is even sometimes a challenge for us humans. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) is also a mechanism for us to explore more about what consciousness is. Can we create AI which is fully self-aware and do we want to? Artificial intelligence and robotics aren’t just about making our lives easier and doing things that humans don’t want to do, they are also asking us to consider big questions, such as what it means to be human and what do humans do? If we can robotically do more and more things then what do we do with our time instead?
Hopefully, one thing which isn’t going away is people, so as our technology improves we also need to improve our understanding of and ability to interact with others too. This is what NLP offers, it is a structured mechanism to understand yourself and others better, and to communicate more effectively too. What you will discover is that we all have our own unique perspective on life built up from our past experiences and, our current situation. You will also discover that letting go of the past and changing unhelp patterns can be as easy as deleting or re-routing some of your neurological computer code.
The sciences of the mind and those of computing, AI and robotics are advancing at a pace, our understanding of what it is to be human needs to advance at least in step with that pace too. Many people I know don’t like the idea of self-driving cars, because they actually enjoy the experience of driving. Maybe what being human is all about is the simply the experience of being human, so let’s make the experiences that we share in 2017 worth experiencing.
“I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.” Isaac Asimov