The Rise and Fall of the Machines
Many experts are of the opinion that very soon machines will be taking over our jobs. I am happy to report that as per my calculations, these experts are quite precisely wrong. At least as far as India is concerned.
Take the self-driving cars that the tech world is so pumped about. I am willing to bet my car's never used 5th gear on this, that these over-hyped machines will not even survive the 3 km stretch from Silk Board to Koramangala in Bangalore. Here it is, cruising along at a glorious 6 kmph, with all its sensors showing a safe cruise ahead because the traffic light says green, when all of a sudden a hand pops out bang in front of the dashboard. It is, of course, the royal pedestrian (and 17 more people who decide to follow this man, as he leads them to freedom into the other side of the road), whose need to cross the road is so paramount a requirement, that the world must come to a grinding halt and watch the procession, led by "the hand", cross the road into safety. What sensor in a self-driving car will ever estimate that? Fail Point 1.
Or for that matter, how will the self-driving car learn to retract its side view mirrors to accommodate the two wheeler guy trying to squeeze into the narrow 5 nanometers gap between the car and the bus to its left? Or learn to move a little backward when the projectile of the bus driver's pan spit comes flying out of the window without any warning. This type of advanced machine learning has not been invented yet. Trust me, our driving jobs are as safe as our MP's flight tickets.
I also don't think the whole jazz about machines replacing our finance departments and their stupendous Excel sheet skills is too accurate an understanding. In an amazing analysis of this, Rory Sutherland writes about how the spreadsheet was invented to create in organizations an over-reliance on numbers, leading to Arithmocracy - a left brained administrative caste that gives important only to those things that can be expressed in numbers, formulas and fancy charts, which may or may not mean much.
In other words, we invented the Excel sheet to satisfy our egos and create more jobs. It is actually a redundant waste of time and effort. Robots, you want to waste time better than us? Be our guest. That's our way of converting you into number crunching, bureaucratic machines. Don't come crying to us later, when you are on version 43.05 of the business case and your boss Robot gives you another list of 30 changes to do. Remember, you asked for it.
Then there's the story about how shopping was going to revolutionize and become a human-free interaction. To that, I challenge these experts to send their robots to Sarojini Nagar in Delhi. Or any Vegetable vendor in India. And let's all sit back with popcorn and drinks, to watch his circuits fry when he hears us negotiate.
Robot: Ma'am, that would be Rs 250. Please deposit the money in this slot.
Input from Human: Na tumhari, na meri. Here, Rs 50. Adjust kar lo. Dhaniya, mirchi extra le rahi hoon.
Robot: M.y. c.i.r.c.u.i.t. c.a.n.n.o.t. t.a.k.e. t.h.i.s. l.e.v.e.l. o.f. n.e.g.o.t.i.a.t.i.o.n. A.l.l. s.y.s.t.e.m.s. s.h.u.t.t.i.n.g. d.o.w.n.
When I was little, our experts predicted that in the future, by 2020, we would be traveling in space pods and eating capsules for meals. I have been quite disappointed when I get served the plain old roti and sabji for meals and still end up having to hail an auto-rickshaw once in a while to go to work. Strengthens my resolve to not believe the experts too much. Looks like the experts will be proven wrong and I will be proven right about the rise of the machines. You may want to make a note of this somewhere.