Technology specialists and business leaders have long predicted that technology will make people obsolete in workplaces and this prediction has partly come true. The World Economic Forum recently revealed that robotics and AI would result in loss of over 5 million jobs worldwide. Does this mean that we are prioritizing machines over people?
Machines in the form of automobiles and other carbon generators have had serious environmental impacts, leading to an enlarged carbon footprint and loss of biodiversity. It would seem that with the recent technological advances, we are not just putting machines over people; we are also putting them over nature.
But is this entirely true?
The new epoch
While technologies are reducing the human touch from the organization’s day-to-day operational activities and while they are having a negative impact on the environment; technological developments today are trying to preserve ecosystems and livelihoods.
Let’s address the issues individually. First, we have the problem of job automation leading to a loss of livelihood. Scientists and technology experts, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, believe that augmenting ourselves will help us avoid the threat of job automation.
Brain augmentation has become a reality. Scientists at Harvard are using technology – ultra-fine electronic meshes – to boost the human brain’s ability to receive, process and act upon neural inputs. This will allow our brains to behave like supercomputers, reducing our necessity to depend on actual computers. The objective is to use technology, not to replace people, but to complement and supplement their natural skills. An additional advantage of augmentation would be the easy identification of degenerative neural disorders, which will help doctors save millions of lives. It seems quite obvious that we are putting people ahead of machines.
Now for the second problem – technology’s impact on the environment. Google, on its 19th birthday, released a video of how the Charles Darwin Foundation was using its Street View software to map the Galapagos Islands, in an attempt to preserve this unique ecosystem.
Closer home you might see a carbon capture plant being set up. Global Thermostat and Carbon Engineering are two carbon capturing companies who plan to use technology to capture as much as 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year and use this carbon to make eco-friendly materials such as AirCarbon, which can in-turn, be converted to items such as chairs and baking soda. These are just a few of the examples of how technology is putting nature ahead of machines, and by extension, we are considering the well-being of people ahead of the welfare of machines.
A balancing act
While machines aren’t completely without blame, they mustn’t be blamed entirely either. At the end of the day, how we utilize technology and what we prioritize is up to us, as humans.