Remembering the Human Element as Technology Increases

By Nicholas Perugini, Opinion Writer 

As we continue to enter further into the age of information, humanity faces a new set of challenges. These challenges will make us question our place in a world filled with machines and new technology.

For the past two hundred years, technology has been growing at an exponential rate, changing the way we live. In 1800, 83 percent of the US population were farmers; today that number is only 2 percent. In the 1950s, people had to go to libraries to obtain information, but today we have access to most information through our phones. Moshe Vardi, a computer science professor at Rice University predicts that, “Machines could take 50 [percent] of Jobs in the next 30 years.” In our lifetimes, we may see robots replace the jobs we currently have. This future seems more possible every day. Perhaps the most alarming thing about this future is that we are not ready for it.

There are many challenges humans will have to face with advent of a world run by automation. What will we do with the massive unemployment? Is this world more susceptible to hackers and online terrorism? Will these future machines be benevolent? Will they develop into something more sinister? These are all very important questions to consider. However, will technology take away the feeling of being human? In a future where robots and machines influence and partially control our way of life, it seems possible that qualities of being a human might be forgotten.

In the United States, there has been a decline of students majoring in the humanities. According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, from 2012 to 2014, there has been an 8.7 percent decline in the number of students earning humanities bachelor degrees. Some universities, including our very own, have core classes that do a quick rundown of the humanities. This is not enough to enrich our society with the great works of the past. If machines replace most humans activities and we cannot recall the works of the past, our lives will begin to lose meaning.

Surely, some will say that this is impossible as humans still have the creative arts. We can write novels, play music, and create art. A robot cannot match human creativity, some would say. Unfortunately, that statement is wrong, as there are already computer software systems that create music thus being creative creatures in a sense. As the Japan News reports, in Japan, a robot has co-authored a novel and passed the first stage in a literary contest. All forms of human jobs are replaceable, including being an artist or creative, something that was once unique to humans.

In a few decades, mainstream music and entertainment will be created by advanced algorithms instead of a creative artist. Instead of hiring a team of writers to create a TV show, entertainment companies will only need a computer. Glaring issues remain if we fully automate the entertainment business. Part of the reason why we, as people, enjoy music so much is because we know that there is another person on the other end of the song. The listener shares the emotion that the singer was feeling when the song was written. In a future with machine-made songs, we will not enjoy music as much, primarily because the emotional aspect will be gone. Our ability to connect with art will disappear.

As technology progresses and our interest in the humanities diminishes we face a dilemma. Humans may no longer be relevant and our future way of life will lack meaning.

                                  

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th print edition.

Contact Nicholas at

nicholas.perugini@student.shu.edu

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