Rise of the Machines | Part 1

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Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica

Fear of technology and its supposed imminent rise to prominence has long lingered in our collective consciousness. Though perhaps most famously displayed in Hollywood theatrics ranging from the explosive battles of the Terminator films to the ethical quandaries of TV’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica, the primary concern for most of us isn’t quite so visceral. To many, automation isn’t a conquest of humanity so much as a conquest of our jobs.

Worthy of a relieved sigh, however, automation has traditionally only cut into the most repetitively tedious of tasks. Typically, this is seen as an opportunity for those in such roles to upskill and migrate into roles requiring greater ingenuity. Yet artificial intelligence seems to have begun a gradual crawl into the realm of skilled labor.

The popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot and DALL·E 2 image-generator has invited new concerns about the potential invasion of automation in the labor market. Unlike robots currently cooking for restaurants, these AI tools creep into higher facets of labor. As illustrated by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg QuickTake, today’s AI services can even facilitate deception within academia and news media.

Yet, as with Alexander Graham Bell’s near-ancient box telephone to today’s versatile smartphone, the evolution of technology is inevitable. It’s also an evolution hastened by 2020’s pandemic. For instance, where once we might have been tiptoeing into the waters of remote work, the pandemic suddenly flung us into the deep end. As seen in the below video, it did likewise for automation.

The continued evolution of technology subsequently births a new era of human creativity. Though the advent of the smartphone brought with it drastic changes to jobs around navigation and camera devices–among others–it also changed the barriers of imagination. We’ve since developed various new skills across a multitude of digital applications and experiences, each with its own dedicated profession all stemming from this single milestone in technological evolution.

Automation isn’t so much a hindrance as it is a catalyst. We ought to not fear it so much as use it. Use it to shake ourselves out of exasperated acceptance of the way things are. Use it to imagine and then build the way things can be.

“Just because you don’t know your direction doesn’t mean you don’t have one.”
― Roark Critchlow as Slick, Battlestar Galactica

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