Staying Human in the Machine Age

May 13, 2019

For the last decade, people intensified efforts to develop more and more innovations and revolutionary ideas. With the development and successful implementation of AI in many industries, we made a technological breakthrough that can be compared to the industrial revolution. However, maybe it’s time to slow down a little bit and think of all the possible challenges technologies brought to the world: to our economic system, society and us, human beings. We invite you to discuss the humanity of technology with us at IT Arena 2019.

Human error or AI domination: what to be afraid of

One of the most controversial topics is the future of AI: people are scared of the hypothetical scenario where robots take control of the world. Despite the benefits that the newest tech developments brought to many industries, some experts still think that AI is the greatest threat to the safety of human civilization.

Oxford professor Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute, claims that modern AI developments look more like a child playing with a bomb. The author of the vulnerable world theory tells that the innovational progress is like an urn with balls: white, grey and black. White balls are innovations with a positive impact, grey ones – both positive and negative and black ones can destroy the whole civilization. He claims that “there is some level of technological development at which civilization almost certainly gets devastated by default” and there is a chance that artificial intelligence can become such a black ball.

Seems pretty dramatic. Is there any possibility for human beings to coexist with robots and use that cooperation for synergy? According to a hypothetical experiment called the paperclip maximizing theory, chances are pretty low. It states that if you tell AI to make as many paperclips as possible, sooner or later it will destroy the world turning everything into paperclips. The idea seems ridiculous, but it shows how dramatic the consequences of “playing with AI” can be.

Robots don’t need parental leave

However, while talking about hypothetical machine domination, robots and AI have already changed our lives and, especially, jobs. The possibility of work automation is the biggest threat for people who do routine manual jobs. McKinsey report from 2017 predicts that robots will take over 800 million jobs by 2030, which would affect one-fifth of the global workforce. People from developing countries would be the first one to suffer from work automation.

Last year, a few very controversial situations happened: Amazon put its AI in charge of firing the employees with low productivity. Robots can write poems and songs, serve in the police, be recruiters and conduct interviews. In the pursuit of optimization AI spares no one: in Japan robot-staffed hotel made a decision to fire half of the robots because of the unpleasant results of their work. If even robots can appreciate people, we can hope that there will still be enough creative and sophisticated jobs to keep the balance in the labor market.

When fictions predict the future

Neurobiologists suggest that one way to survive in the world of androids with unlimited intellectual capacities is to change our own nature. The abilities that seemed to be a science-fiction plot are a reality now: we live at the same time when first genes-edited children were born. The experiment which started with a purpose to make HIV-resistant happened to improve children’s cognitive functions and memory. Seems like scientists were inspired by “The Witcher” trilogy.

In the 1940s people dreamt about technologies of the future to make their routine easier Who could imagine that “The house of tomorrow”, the animated satire created in 1949 will partly become a reality. In 2019 smart houses are a common thing, as a third of Americans own one. The most popular items are powered with smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant which work based on machine learning. To become smarter assistants track all the information about the owner, they have access to, starting from search queries up to the level of humidity in your bedroom. Therefore, 63% of happy smart home owners agreed that such systems are creepy.  People worry about their privacy, even though companies convince customers their data is safe.


The crisis of media

The implementation of AI became a big challenge for the media. AI led faking news to a new level and shocked society with super realistic videos. Using maliciously, such videos can have a crucial effect on political, social or cultural stability. Recently, AI algorithms went further and created a 3d image of people that never existed.


Trying to deal with challenges tech industry brought to us, this year we’ll gather experts and thinkers from all over the world to figure out how to remain human in the world of machines, and what we still can do to prevent a disaster. Follow us not to miss the latest updates about IT Arena 2019. Next week we’ll announce the first speakers, so stay tuned.