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.

"What’s exercise?" a question about the future of work

Let’s imagine you somehow got your hands on a working DeLorean – and took a trip back to the not-too-distant past of the pre-industrialised world. And when you arrived, you sat down with someone and asked them this simple question over a semi-dirty glass of water at their kitchen table.

Future Human: Did you exercise today?

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s exercise?

Future Human: It’s when you move your body around and lift things to stay fit.

Pre-Industrial Human: Oh, you mean work – is exercise a new word for work? Yeah, sure, I worked today. All day, in fact. All of the daylight hours. I’m very tired.

Future Human: No no, not work…I mean extra movement of your body before or after you’ve finished work.

Pre-Industrial Human: Why would I do that? I’m exhausted. I already did that all day.

Future Human: The reason is that you want to stay fit.

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s staying fit?

Future Human: It means you keep your body in good shape – like ‘thin’, and you remain strong.

Pre-Industrial Human: But my work already does that, and everyone I know is very thin, although I’ve heard stories about the King having a big belly.

Future Human: Well, in the future people do exercise, because they mostly sit down while working, and get fat from eating too much food.

Pre- Industrial Human: Wow, they sit down at work! How much food do they have?

Future Human: As much as they want, all kinds from all over the world…. but let’s focus here…

Pre-Industrial Human: So where do they do this…exercise thing?

Future Human: In gyms, mostly, or running or swimming. Or play sports.

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s a gym? 

Future Human: A place with weights, where you lift them, or do classes like spin or aerobics. 

Pre-Industrial Human: Oh, where do they put these heavy things they lift? Who are they lifting them for?

Future Human: Oh, the weights are specially made, only for lifting. People just lift them up and down. And the classes teach people how to move their bodies…

Pre-Industrial Human: Wow, this sure sounds strange…

Future Human: Strange, well you should see how they look in their spandex…

Pre-Industrial Human: What’s spandex…

Pre Industrial revolution dirty water

Of course this conversation could go on forever, in many directions and fill the void of the Middle Ages pre-industrial mind with all kinds of physical automation and wizardry of tomorrow. The Exercise Industry, and any flow of money, work and exchange of value associated with it, is of course a pertinent example. The positive energy balance (Read here excess food intake) many humans face would not exist without the invention of machinery to remove human labour in farming and food manufacture. The consequences of outsourcing of gathering our food are not limited only to the gym, weights and spandex. We could add to the list the birth of refrigeration, packaged foods, powered transport, television, the diet industry, Jane Fonda aerobics, education, sporting brands and all manner of things which are the result of us, the first generation in human history to have more people to die from over eating than malnutrition.

For every solution technology invents, it presents two more problems to be solved. It’s a less than a zero sum game where two new revenue streams arrive for every one it takes away. New unintended problems arise and new entrepreneurial solutions can be brought to market. Everything outside of the most basic physical needs are human inventions and the result of some previous invention. But ask me what the jobs in the distant future will be and I can’t tell you, just like a pre industrial human couldn’t fathom the need for ‘exercise’. And while AI will take away the need for many forms of intellectual labour in the near term, we will find new tasks for idle humans. Of this, I have zero doubt. Yes, there will be pain for the unimaginative, unprepared and stagnant humans during the transition, but it’s not the first time this has happened and our personal future depends on our personal actions.

Who knows, perhaps an entire industry might emerge to keep our brains in shape as we outsource left brain logic to the micro chip?

Get secret free chapters of my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – out now.

Omnipresent deflation & the longer tail

I’m convinced that pretty much everything is getting cheaper as time progresses. Relative to incomes there are not many things I can think of that have increased in price over time (excluding property). I wrote about this in a recent business manifesto post:

Omnipresent Deflation – While tabloids decry the rising cost of living and most everything we purchase, the reality is the opposite of what is being reported. Energy, housing, technology, entertainment and even food are all getting cheaper in ‘real terms’. Rapid technological change, Moore’s law and developing nation labour forces will ensure this continues. It’s creating the great business revenue maintenance challenge as we quickly move the price of ‘free’.

This is good news for startups. The barriers to entry have been infinitely reduced to well, almost nothing. One such service that is so cheap it is ridiculous is fiverr.com While it may not represent a bastion of quality, there sure is a lot of interesting services one can get for $5. Some of which could form interesting fun stuff to pimp your new brand. Many of these services could never have been available at such low prices… while many would never exist at all without the craziness that goes with all things web. Here’s a few of my fav’s from Fiverr:

Another case of the tail getting longer and the impact of connected labour.

Just when it feels like it’s all been done, it seems that the next idea will just take that niche a little further, and they’ll be some people who demand it too.

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