September 25, 2017

Dr. Alan Finkel, Chief Scientist for the Australian government, gave a keynote talk at the 2017 IEEE Sections Congress. I will paraphrase and quote from his talk. He told us the future will bring change because of developments in artificial intelligence. Old jobs will disappear, including creative jobs. He told us that optimist, pessimist or transhumanist, the message is always the same. Embrace disruption. “You, the members of the IEEE, don’t need to embrace disruption, you live it: you live it, breathe it and sell it. Gram for gram, you probably pack more disruptive potential than any other gathering of human beings at this moment, anywhere on Earth!”

But despite the challenges, he said that “we can all find ways to be better than our brilliant machines, for generations to come.  And not just better than our machines — better off, because of our machines. Better together.” We can do this because we speak fluent human.  “A robot that says that science is fun is delivering a line.  A human who says that science is fun is telling you something about what it means to be alive.” We can be better than brilliant.

Finkel went on to say that humans can be flexible and effective in human settings, something that machines have yet to grasp. “In our world, AI are the interlopers. We are the incumbents.  It’s the robots who have to make sense of us. And let’s face it: we make it difficult.” We have hidden motives that a machine who has not experienced life would never know. Humans can harness AI to sharpen their perceptions and overcome cognitive biases, but humans can also cajole, deflect, flatter and persuade. “That human touch is hard to replicate, and even harder to reduce to a formula and scale. So better-than-brilliant means flexible and effective in human settings.”

He says that we can co-exist with our increasingly capable machines. “And there is plenty of room for all of our human talents to flourish, whether we want to build the robots, harness the robots, civilise the robots, or create a robot-free zone. But if we want that future, we have to claim it.”

Finkel concluded… “After all, you’re better than brilliant. You’re brilliantly human.”


Written by Tom Coughlin, IEEE Senior Member



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