Why machines can never replace humans

The internet is terrific at serving up things we didn’t know we needed, enjoy and very often love. That’s why there are currently 72 million cat videos of youtube. I happened upon one such youtube channel recently – Dude Perfect. For the uninitiated, it’s a channel which shows a bunch of people doing ‘trick shots’ – like getting a basketball through a hoop from a bounce off a 10 story building – I’m betting they’ve done this, thought I haven’t checked.

Their latest version shows a Super Bowl champion Drew Brees doing amazing trick shots with a football. You can watch it here. It is mind blowing.

There are machines that can already do many of the shots they do with a 99.9% success rate. In a few short years some soft robots will be able to beat these guys at every shot they take. But here’s the thing – we’ll still watch their channel. And for one simple reason – it’s amazing because a human is doing it.

The future of what we get paid for in many realms wont be because it is the most efficient way it can be done, but because people are doing it. As a society we are interested in what we can achieve, even if a car can go faster than a human, we all still know who Usain Bolt is. There’s a good chance a lot of things robots will be able to do, the highest paid versions of it will be those with human imperfections as part of the reason we buy. Humanity is where the future of work and money lives. Who knows, maybe intelligent robots will pay to watch humans play sport one day?

Artificial Intelligence isn’t about replacing us, but outsourcing the things we’d rather not do. Once artificial intelligence takes away the mundane, the inhumane and repetitive, we can get on with the creative, the interactive and the enjoyable.

Come and hang with me on June 20th – I’ll be giving you the human live version of my new book – I’ll be wearing my heart on my sleeve in all I say, some of which will include truths my publisher wouldn’t put in print or the screen…

Book your seat here – see you there.

Stay rad, Steve.

Why robots should have rights

Up until very recently, I used to think it was a ridiculous idea for robots to have rights. You can even hear me say that on a recent Future Sandwich podcast I was featured in.

But, I’ve changed my mind. And here’s why.

The incredible science fiction TV series Westworld is solely responsible for this change of heart. To avoid spoilers for those who haven’t seen it (and I highly recommend you do), it is set in a time when robots are very much like humans. It reminded me of one important thing: Our own behaviour is the only thing we can truly control. The way we act is all important, and it isn’t just a reflector of the world around us, but ultimately the director. Let’s run a thought experiment and consider a few consequences of robots not having rights:

  • What if robots get to a point where they can actually feel pain?
  • What happens if we can’t tell the difference between a robot? What are we really hurting?
  • What if people merge with certain technologies or robots? Do only certain parts of the ‘thing‘ have rights?
  • What if others own or control software in our bodies? Does the software have rights? Who has the rights over the technology – the host or the licensor?
  • What if some one got tricked to destroy a robot, but then it turned out to be a human?

But most of all, how will disregarding the things around us, impact what we become? We are the sum of our actions, and the truth is our behaviour bleeds into all aspects of our lives and how humanity behaves. If ever there was a time to consider the seemingly ridiculous, then this is it.

During a technology upheaval, where new possibilities astound us, being able to change our minds is something we all need to get better at.

Blog readers in Melbourne – I’m inviting you as a reader to The Lessons School Forgot – Live – to celebrate the launch of my new book. 

Hope to see you there, Steve.

Why you shouldn’t fear a robot version of you

Some robots are getting so ridiculously good – you can literally code, or should I say ‘train‘ them, by moving their arms and legs. You show them what to do like you would a child. The Baxter robot by Rethink Robotics is an example of this pictured above. In addition to this Natural Language Processing is getting so good, the Google AI, can understand 95 percent of verbal requests and process accurate search results as if it was typed. Within 10 years, we’ll be able to talk and communicated with A.I.’s, the same way we could with humans on many tasks.

The obvious next step is to add the 2 together more deliberately – the physical Robot, and the Artificial Intelligence. We’ll have human like devices with both the physical dexterity and mental capacity of their flesh and blood creators. This is causing a lot of concern around the world for employment. Personally I think there is a lot of upside would should be exploring as well.

Imagine, there was a robot that could copy our skills exactly, down to the minute detail. Match our physical behaviours and our human interactions. Learn from us, and literally match the way we would talk, interact, move and decide what to do next. Even match our physical style and processes on the job (without the mishaps!) An artificial version of us. Well, to me this could be a great economic opportunity for many people. Say you work in aged care, or phone sales, and you are of course, a gun at what you do. All of a sudden you could go out and train robots to operate in your personal style – teach the robot your human touch and skills which you have become renowned for within your organisation. All of a sudden you could entrepreneurially replicate yourself for revenue. A human style robot who behaves just like the awesome Lisa has done to be employee of the month a zillion times. All that hard work you’ve done over the years to hone your skills and build your reputation in your job, becomes your opportunity. You can replicate yourself and what makes you special and good at your gig, and become the beneficiary of all your years of hard work.

“I’ve trained and sold 36 Lisa robots this year” 

A revenue source someone waiting tables never thought they’d have. If you think about it, there was a time when musicians and actors never thought they’d be able to replicate their work for revenue either. They too once had to be in the room to earn money doing what they did. Technology it turns out, can be a great equalizer of opportunity.

Blog readers in Melbourne – I’m inviting you as a reader to The Lessons School Forgot – Live – to celebrate the launch of my new book. 

Hope to see you there, Steve. 

How to future proof your kids

There’s lots of things we can do to future proof our kids. On the top of my list would be this: Don’t condition them to into thinking they’ll get a job when they grow up.

The reason is simple – A job is only one source of potential revenue to sustain life.

This isn’t to say that jobs are bad, just that while they are young we should be introducing the concept of economics. The first concept is that we need revenue when we grow up, and a job is just one source. Imagine asking your kids this:

What will your major revenue source be when you grow up?

Their first question will be, your guessed it – What in the heck is revenue? And this invites an important conversation that opens their minds for the rest of their life. A decent answer might be this: Well, revenue is a word that describes all of the different ways we can get money for helping people. A job is just one of those ways, but there are many more. And some are more rewarding, some easier, some harder. Here are some examples Johnny and Mary:

  • Profits from selling things, or owning a business
  • Commission which can be from selling something for someone else
  • Fees for doing projects
  • Freelancing selling your skills one task at a time
  • Rents for people using things you own – like a building
  • Dividends which is money when you own a portion of a company, Like the toy shops we go to – Did you know you can own part of that toyshop!?!
  • Royalties from letting someone use your idea, like if you drew the first picture of a cartoon character
  • Licensing which is when people pay you to use something you own in another country

The list is endless, unlike the number of jobs which are about to be replaced by AI, Automation and offshoring.

You could explain all the examples above, using just one of their toys, say Lego. Shops make profit selling it. Professional Lego builders work as freelancers. The shop the Lego is sold in is rented by the person that owns  the building. Lego pay licensing fees to Star Wars to make Darth Vader. Shareholders in the Lego company share in profits from people buying lego. You get the pattern.

This will show them many possibilities. Kids are super curious about the world, and they’ll never see money in the same way again. They’ll start to see economics and different ways they can participate. More importantly though, they’ll be thinking about systems, and how to position themselves into owning the factors of production, and not being them. If we do this, we give them a chance at being the architects of their own future, and not a bricklayer in someone else’s.

Blog readers in Melbourne – I’m inviting you as a reader to The Lessons School Forgot – Live – to celebrate the launch of my new book. 

Hope to see you there, Steve. 

Why we should worry less about the robots, and more about ourselves

As if concocted by some kind of Industrial Séance, the past 100 years has turned people in the developed world into a cohort of economic outpatients. We’ve abdicated our entire financial responsibility to institutions who must now provide us with a stable job, a career for life, increasing wages, and skills that are relevant in perpetuity without the requirement of an upgrade. A strange desire given that this has never happened before.

A close look at history any time before the 1950’s, and we can see we’ve never had any of those things as a certainty of life, quite the opposite in fact. The level of stability, of economic growth and the increase in living standards we’ve experience in the past 70 years is unparalleled in recorded history. For all we know it could be a fortuitous anomaly, a once off that we’ve been lucky enough to experience first hand. But we’re not thankful, instead those who’ve been the major beneficiaries are demanding in advance that the good life not be taken away. That the life we live is some kind of right, a standard we are now entitled to, without any heavy lifting required on our behalf. While very few indeed are asking the resources needed so they can get to work on personal transformation.

Automation & robots

This kind of upheaval isn’t new either. Every period of humanity which found itself in the middle of a technological shift, had those who were disenfranchised and displaced. Some even had entire their civilizations destroyed based on technological lag. Given our current global and economic interdependence this is an unlikely outcome, but yes, the technological shift is big, the biggest in many generations, and yes, it’s happening much quicker than all the others have. The challenge with technological shifts, is that there isn’t any lessons on how to deal with them. It’s not in the text book. We instead must rely on those old school skills of ingenuity and adaptability.

But this time, there is one important difference.  For the first time we have a choice on whether or not we adapt. Every other time if we didn’t have the resources at our disposal, coping in the new system wasn’t just difficult, it was nigh on impossible. This time we’ve been given the dignity of choice. We can prepare, we can up-skill, and we can participate in the shift to the greatest period of entrepreneurship we’ve ever known. We can relearn the art of self reliance. We can do all these things, mostly for free.

Hence there are two approaches we can take to sure up our uncertain futures.

The common approach: We can wait for the Government to fix things, hope for a universal basic income, regulate against technology which destroys our industry’s business model, support populist and protectionist policy makers, and pretend inevitable technologies can be stopped to maintain our status quo.

or

The better approach: We can start today, firstly by admitting what might change in our industry, our economy and our future. Then, we can quickly start working with our communities to create an infrastructure (Physical and Informational) which provides all of us access to the tools and skills we’ll need to help shape the future economy. We can lead others and inspire them to believe they can adapt by sharing what we learn. We can meet with like minds creating income producing ideas, and expanding industries we couldn’t even imagine yesterday. We can decide that hoping everything will be Ok, isn’t a plan, and remember that we aren’t the first generation to face a challenge which might effect how we work and live. But mostly, we can sleep better at night knowing we aren’t helpless outpatients, but the architects of the future we want to live in.

New book – The Lessons School Forgot – click here for free advance chapter

The future of stealing music and everything else

Before technology allowed for recorded music, it was a pretty difficult thing to steal. You’d listen to the medieval minstral and maybe sing it to yourself after they’d left town. Heck, I’m sure that’s what they wanted. In those days, money only happened when they we’re ‘in the room.’ But then music changed…. it was something you could listen to when the musician wasn’t present.

When we entered the magnetic tape era, it become relatively easy to copy or ‘steal’ music for the first time. When I was a teenager there were a few ways of making copies of music:

Tape it off the radio: Wait patiently during the American Top 40 for your favourite song to come on, and hope like hell the DJ doesn’t talk over the top of it and screw it up. It was annoying to hear their voice each time your re-listened to it.

Tape it off the vinyl record: Have a friend who had the money to buy the record and tape record it onto your tape. We’d often do a swap – buy one record each, and tape each others – it was very give and take. A bit like the web should be – let others access your files while you access theirs. The basic economics of trade – by sharing we both had more.

Tape it off a tape: The old school double decker tape recorder – put the tape in and make another version off it.

Steal it from a music store: Heck, I’m sure some people did this, in those days it was the only way to get a perfect recording. All the other methods above had quality issues as the copies were imperfect, until…

… we entered the digital age. All of a sudden anyone could make a perfect copy, from perfect strangers. Napster…. Limewire…. Kazaar……Pirate Bay…. Youtube. Some got shut down, but the music never stopped, and the battle is still alive. It’s a battle people selling recorded music will never, ever win. The technology is an organism with its own agenda. So what happens next when there is no device or host of the music?

“What – no host? What are you talking about Steve?”

20 years from now you’ll have a chip with petabytes of standard holding capacity. It’ll be attached to your body, and most likely inside it permanently. It will be an extension of our brain capacity in much the same way as our notebooks, libraries and computers are today. Except, it will record everything perfectly. It won’t just be what we interpret, it will be an exact copy and it will be inside us. Every sound, every song, every visual, every movie we ever hear or see will be on recall on demand for us to re-listen to and re-watch on demand. We only need to be exposed to it once and we’ll have a perfect copy, forever.

Will that be stealing? 

It will be difficult to police, because the technology will arrive and be implemented into ‘people’ before most industries realise the implications – especially those pertaining to copyright. When our technology merges with our biology, when it becomes part of our permanent memory and experience how can it be stopped? How will corporations even know what we are holding in our organic data banks?

The connected augmented human

The reality is that all biology and technology is built upon the concept of ‘copying’. Everything from single cell organisms, to our DNA, to manufacturing, to emergent technologies. Copying is ‘the’ feature, not a bug. Any business model built on this idea that all copies are controlled by the originator is flawed. It’s a business model that worked for a blip of time for humanity during the 20th century – it was the anomaly. If any business wants to survive in the future, it should be built around the idea where things getting copied is what you actually want.