If you work in technology, you will have been cornered into a conversation about Artificial Intelligence and how the robots are going to take over the world. If you happen to work in recruitment, it will be reinforced by a frenzied panic of recruitment owners trying to build “one of those tech app things” before their entire business is consumed by algorithms and they fade into irrelevance.
There are the stories about technology displaying troubling behaviours. Twitter accounts run by AI that learnt behaviours from far-right groups and suddenly was so racist it had to be shut down. Or whispered tales of robots that had to be destroyed because they started overriding human commands, or even the most recent news headlines that Amazon’s Alexa had recorded a murder and the argument about whether that data could actually be used because AI might have the same rights as humans. Elon Musk’s regular tweets about how superintelligence, the next evolution of AI, is potentially more dangerous than nukes doesn’t help calm anyone’s fears either.
The constant dialogue we’re having about AI feeds into our panic and excitement about the technology and what it could do for us, but also, what it might do to us. You can’t escape a recruitment conference or event without seeing it on the agenda and having at least six different conversations about how recruitment will deal with this threat. However, the thing we’re all missing and what no one talks about is that we can just pull the plug. We can literally, and physically, reach over and pull the plug out of the wall and shut the whole thing down.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves that we are living out our sci-fi film fantasies, where our choices and future are no longer in our control. It’s not the technology itself we are scared of. It’s still just other people. That’s always what it comes down to in the end. A computer didn’t build itself, neither did a robot, and neither did a W-53 Warhead. Humans still press the button.
We are scared of our own irrelevance. Scared of other people making technology that we can’t. Scared of not keeping up with everyone else who is making technology. So we keep making technology to keep our finger on the pulse, or in every pie or whatever analogy you want to use. We are fundamentally scared and our fear is driving us. Incentivising us to keep creating things and therefore we’re still needed. Just as we were needed after the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution. Yes it’s happening at a faster rate this time. Yes the machines are better, cleverer, stronger. But they are only as clever as the designer and as accurate as the data we feed them with.
The very necessity of wanting it keeps us making it. Human curiosity is limitless and by nature we probe and poke and peel back layers to see how things work. As long as our curiosity lasts, so too does our innovation and obsession with technology, and therefore so too does our necessity.
Humans are self-serving creatures. We do not create things unless it results in more advancement and wealth. And the more money there is, the more opportunity, the more ‘jobs’, or ‘work’ or whatever we will be calling it in 50 years time. Maybe we will ‘replace ourselves’ – from having to work, or think, or do. And humanity can come full circle to the days where we sat around eating and fucking and sleeping while the machines whirr on in the background.
The danger is not the human race becoming irrelevant – but the distribution of this new wealth, the speed at which various subsectors of society become disconnected. The fall of the masses for the gain of the few. But that’s STILL a human issue. Technology is actually the thing that we could use to sort all that out, IF we wanted to. But that’s a whole separate blog……
For now, recruitment professionals aren’t going anywhere, (sorry). perhaps instead we can start changing the way we talk about recruitment and technology. At Opus, as we’ve evolved and grown, we have always consciously tried to make our work more deeply about people and relationships. Because I believe that’s what truly sets us apart. Helping clients think about how you consistently and strategically weave relationships and human behaviour throughout your business to effect change or achieve desired results.