That’s a good question, Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, notwithstanding. One of the growing fears– and we see some of it taking place already– is that humankind will find itself replaced by robots with artificial intelligence, also known as AI. It’s not that it could happen. It’s already in progress.
How many human beings are required to build an automobile? Far fewer, thanks to robots which have built-in intelligence to perform specific tasks and functions faster and with more accuracy than humans. Deal with it. This kind of robotic AI is here already and humankind doesn’t have much of an agreed to ethical outline on how to keep such electronic creatures from penetrating and disrupting our lives, jobs, education, and health– for good and for bad.
Sony seems to love building human-like robots and thanks to wireless (think Wi-Fi everywhere) connectivity, could be harnessed to Amazon’s Alexa, IBM’s Watson, or any other of a number of artificial intelligence systems that run in the cloud but become the back side brains of robots. Not of the future. Today.
What of Apple?
Apple is a hardware company than melds or integrates software into a cohesive package that is both elegant and comfortable to use; all part of an ecosystem which a billion customers seem to love.
How far away is an Apple robot? A mechanical Siri which looks somewhat human, can move like a Roomba but performs physical tasks as well as responses to queries?
Robots with lesser personalities already take jobs away from humans and I cannot see that trend dissipating. Ever. Apple makes money the old fashioned way. By selling something that is useful and desirable by those with the understanding and means to prefer a premium product over lesser products made for the masses.
What happens to Apple’s business model when people no longer can afford luxury devices and– thanks to a disruption in the world’s economy brought about by a revolutionary wave of robotics and AI– settle for lesser products or no products at all?
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella:
The fundamental need of every person is to be able to use their time more effectively, not to say, ‘Let us replace you’.
That makes sense but does not provide a hard and fast direction to save workers, retrain workers, or to manage those who cannot work and cannot afford premium products made by the likes of Apple. If there is no one who can afford the products made by robotics with AI, what happens to the new world order?
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty:
This new generation of technology and the cognitive systems it helps power will soon touch every facet of work and life — with the potential to radically transform them for the better… As with every prior world-changing technology, this technology carries major implications. Many of the questions it raises are unanswerable today and will require time, research, and open discussion to answer.
How much time do we have?
Already, simple devices like Amazon’s Alexa allow you to order products as a whim, either something new or to refresh certain essentials. Amazon says Alexa’s customers buy more than those Amazon customers without Alexa. Of course, Alexa isn’t smart enough to know who is in the room so even a TV program that says, “Alexa, buy me a dollhouse” starts a frenzy of purchasing all over the country.
Where does Apple fit into this?
What I see is simple. Robotic AI, first with iPhone, iPad, Watch and Mac, all with Siri as the interface, but each year with additional built-in functionality. Apple sells hardware, so future robotic AI devices will be hardware– maybe similar to Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, but with more personality, and certainly with more devices that can use AI for more functionality.
Amazon may have sold 5-million Echo with Alexa devices, and the company’s public relations group has upped the mindshare operation, but Apple has over 1-billion devices that already run Siri so maybe our favorite Mac maker is working on making Siri more Alexa like. Who knows.
Just remember, Apple sells hardware. Amazon sells everything but hasn’t had much success selling products that compete with Apple. I don’t foresee Apple making products or technology that can take away your job, but with robotic assistants in the Apple Store down at the Mall, and an Apple autonomous self-driving car to pick you up and take you wherever you want to go, someone is going to need retraining and job counseling.