Opinion

Could robots become best-selling novelists?

Shadow Dexterous Robot Hand holding a lightbulb

Shadow Dexterous Robot Hand holding a lightbulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The cursor kept blinking. It had nothing left for him except its rhythmic flashing atop the blank, white screen canvas that confounded him. He thought about many things this day and the threat of artificial intelligence on his writing job was not one of them—at least not here in the beginning.

Artificial intelligence, or AI as it’s commonly referred to, is coming. Actually, it’s already here and your own job is probably on the line.

Optimist, expert analysts believe we’ll have new jobs to move into once our old ones are taken. For the rational person, this thought does not make any sense. Rational people want to know what the next professional roles for humans will be, especially when no one is saying what they are.

Job sectors for humans

In the old days it was easy. You looked in the help wanted section of your newspaper’s classifieds. Now the classifieds, like Sports Illustrated, are not so thick with content. Perhaps Internet job boards will have one section for humans and one for robots, or LinkedIn and LinkedIn for Bots.

The thing that is so fascinating about AI is that robots have the ability to acquire knowledge and make decisions based on the knowledge they gain. If they develop a body of work so to speak with respect to their acquired knowledge, what is to keep them from going rogue?

The only thing that could prevent robots from becoming dissident is a kill switch their designers include during creation. This is not my idea, however. I’ve heard it mentioned as something that will be a necessity moving forward.

Robots will be moving in on construction and transportation worker jobs. Yes, they will be driving buses, or at least computers will. Robots are already building cars and they will be taking over all of the good-paying construction laborer jobs that exist now, too.

The problem I have with the kill switch for robots is that I assume robots will manufacturer or build other robots. Robots and/or computers are already better than the best human board game players. They are also better than humans when it comes to playing things like Jeopardy.

When I read and understand things like this I believe that by virtue of the fact they never require sleep like humans do, they’re smarter than us and they might eventually scheme together to the point their intelligence is no longer artificial–it’s just as real as ours, and the prospects for their superiority are thought-provoking.

Dad moderates the Veritas Forum - Science, Fai...

Dad moderates the Veritas Forum – Science, Faith, and Technology session on Living Machines: Can Robots Become Human? Participants: Rodney Brooks, Director – Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT. Rosalind Picard, Founder and Director – Affective Computing Research Group, MIT. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re going to need contrarian human thinkers and writers in order to co-exist peacefully with robots. Nothing that Hollywood has or will consider producing in the future, will accurately portray this scenario. The danger is that since robots will be in effect creating themselves (with minimal human oversight), what are the chances that robots will one day acquire learned ability to thwart the implementation of a kill switch in their manufacturing process?

Kill switch implementation, while perhaps a good start regarding future robot safety, still requires supplemental fail safes if we are to feel truly secure about an AI future.

Construction, transportation, restaurant, hotel and all hospitality workers will need retraining. And we have AI development rapidly proceeding without having identified what the new jobs will be that humans can do.

Will work eventually go away for everyone?

As much as people complain about their jobs, and with the capabilities of robots and AI improving on a daily, if not hourly basis, the need exists for humans to take a long hard look at what else they might be doing or could do, right now.

While the argument could be made that robot minds are already superior to humans in many areas, there are still some things worth pondering. The ability of humans to develop innovative and creative methods of problem-solving should not be underestimated.

For instance, the opening paragraph of this piece seemed to describe the agony that is writer’s block or at least one of its symptoms. The writer sits down at their tool of choice to create something and always, somehow, the thoughts flow from their minds to their fingertips and out to the word processing screen in front of them.

But, I think I’m safe for a while. When I began writing I unofficially took a vow of poverty, so I don’t think capitalists will look to implement robot writers. Besides, I think I’d be able to identify a robot writer if I read one.

A swarm of robots in the Open-source micro-rob...

A swarm of robots in the Open-source micro-robotic project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If a robot can write a best-seller than perhaps writers might not be safe. Short of that, however, I’m pretty confident about my writing job security, as I am about the rest of our human work force lives.

Most of us need to work in order to create income. The way to beat robots at the employment game is to do things brilliantly in short bursts—kind of like what I’m doing with this blog post. Everyone knows robots don’t need sleep so we humans can’t compete with them doing assembly-line worker jobs. Robots can work without breaks or rest so their productivity over long periods of time will always be greater than humans.

Perhaps we can design robots that can identify sectors where human workers can have good paying jobs. But, that would mean robot design company owners having human workers’ best interests in mind, so that’s not going to happen.

All is not lost, though. The key is for humans to do what it is that only humans can do—like this blogpost. No way a robot could have written this, right? I mean, they might be able to produce a reasonable facsimile but it’d never approach true, honest to goodness, hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley quality now would it?

As a reminder, humans posing as robots with writer’s block need not leave comments.

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