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The Hidden Luminescence in Obsolescence

While concerns of artificial intelligence and its place in our workplaces remain prominent, notably evidenced by this year’s writer’s strike, a gradual osmosis may yield unexpectedly positive results, delineated here by the National Education Association. AI’s ability to assist with simple tasks and even convert lecture content to student preferred languages has eased barriers to material comprehension.

In the attempt to deter widespread fears of human obsolescence, WIRED amusingly depicts in this video current limitations of AI when matched against specialized roles. Though AI may not propagate our obsolescence, it can be used to alleviate everyday drudgery. After all, every job contains unenjoyable chores, and that’s where AI may fit in suggests Harvard’s Frances Frei in this TED podcast.

Integrating AI into our daily chores can free us to give more time and effort to things we actually enjoy. To face a fear of the unknown, we ought to endeavor familiarizing ourselves with that unknown. Familiarity can be a bridge to understanding.

As researcher Phoebe V. Moore notes in this paper, simple AI technologies have become rather ubiquitous in our daily lives, usually without much fuss. AI assistants like Alexa, Siri, and the simply named Google Assistant are all around us, especially with the rise of wearable technologies. These devices have seamlessly integrated into our everyday routines by way of reminders, traffic or weather updates, voice messaging and other tasks we’d rather not do manually.

While such rampant and commonplace uses of technology may inadvertently result in dependency, illustrated in this video by TED-Ed and the World Economic Forum, the real danger may lurk within the comforts of complacency. Kevin Wheeler, founder of the Future of Talent Institute, advises in this podcast, that as AI develops more skills every day, so too should we. Complacency and stagnation are the stepping stones to the very obsolescence we wish to avert, thus must we continually invest in ourselves and our own futures.

By keeping abreast of and pursuing new skills, we can avoid the fate of the long obsolete VHS player or the more recent Blu-Ray player. Adopting new technologies for mere sake of novelty can give way to a reality of dependency. Yet, when we use technology to dodge drudgery and pursue passion, we may discover not a life obsolete, but a life augmented.

“I remember when computers became a thing and instead of writing on paper, I got to have a word processor, and a lot of people were hesitant about using the word processor, but then all of us started using it, and it became good. . . . Those of us that become early adopters are going to do better than late adopters. . . . So, my advice is to not put a catastrophic label on it and rather start playing with it and having fun.”
– Frances Frei

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