The Last Robot

Finding Purpose In A World Full Of Robots

Matthew Henry On

This weekend, I was watching a documentary on Netflix titled ‘The American Meme’- a very poignant take on our society today. The documentary outlines the freakish nature of social media where influencers and celebrities use social media to document every living moment of their lives and share it with their ‘fans’. Some celebrities claim they are so lonely in life that their Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook followers are their real family. They don’t have to pretend anymore and can be whoever they want to be. The other group of celebrities feels that there is nothing wrong with seeking attention of their millions of followers by being less ordinary — taking off their clothes, eating detergent, setting themselves on fire etc. There is also a whole genre dedicated to mimicking celebrities and unboxing gadgets and making money. Think about this — a celebrity once walked into a classroom full of students and asked them what they want to be when they grow up. The answer is deceptively simple — they wanted to be ‘famous’ . How can you die being a nobody, right?Then, there is the strange case of the social media app/game called the Blue Whale that encouraged teenagers to take their lives by committing suicide. The logic behind doing all these bizzare things is that ‘if I don’t do it, someone else will. Consequently, they will be rolling in dough, have a huge amount of soft power over their legions Of fans and become a celebrity nobody will forget.

Finally, it all comes back to basic instincts ie the drive to obtain fame, wealth, power and control over people’s lives using social media and the democratization of technology as the wind beneath their sails. The desires are still the same but the platform has changed and is now capable to magnifying human desires. Let me be very clear, this article is not a judgment. Many people earn their livelihoods using social media. I am a nobody when it comes to influencers and their fans. Everyone has a right to choose their form of livelihood and entertainment. In fact, I am writer with my little group of fans myself. I will be a hypocrite if I argued against my own new found sense of self. I would be an even bigger hypocrite if I don’t acknowledge that I do pursue common human desires.

However, this article outlines some of the key takeaways of how technology has altered economics of business and finance. We live in a time where you can literally be anyone you want to be. Therefore, this article provides insights on these pervasive megatrend and ends with what the new world means for all of us.

A Role Reversal

The word Robot is derived from a Czech word – from robota ‘forced labor.’ The term was coined in K. Čapek’s play R.U.R. ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’ (1920). It is called forced labor because it doesn’t know any better. It just serves it’s human masters as it is programmed t0. It has no consciousness so it does know it is a robot. Think about it, you car is no longer a car – it is a robot. It just doesn’t know so. Every electronic device from voice assistants to the assembly line is a robot. Robots literally live amongst us without being aware they are serving us. Now, imagine a future where robots can procreate and they can also refuse to obey us. In fact, they can start commanding us. In doing so, we become the robots and we now have a different set of electronic citizens with their new found awareness.

It is a fully possible development. Think of how we have become automatons working away at our smartphones only to create value for platforms. Tomorrow’s platforms can take our data to power AI algorithms that exploit our own data to dictate the direction we are moving in. Who’s the robot now?

Don’t get me wrong — platforms have allowed many people to find an alternative way of living, removed some bias by democratizing media and given an outlet to many creative individuals.

Today, anybody can blog with a completely unbiased perspective and be ‘followed’ by people because they respect their independent opinions. The problem arises when independent voices want to scale up to becoming a larger voice. Today, Wikipedia and a lot of independent platforms have to rely on donations because the subscription and ad models are broken. Unless you embrace true altruism and understand that your followers can be as fickle as many humans are, true knowledge will be limited by monetary incentives.

My limited point is this: don’t lose sight of the higher purpose. As I describe below, we need to move to a higher level of consciousness.

The Transition To Singularity

Today, it is very hard to educate people without letting them have fun. An ‘experience’ that educates while helping people destress and enjoy life is unbeatable. If that experience entails involving celebrities to prepare the middle class for an AI enabled world, what’s wrong in it ?? I would almost say it’s the right language for the times we live in. What if people get rewarded for completing Artificial Intelligence 101 with free concert tickets to their favorite artist or a free copy of their favorite video game. They could even do a lunch with their favorite instagram, Facebook or Snapchat celebrity.

The use of gamification with the reward system that resonates with the present aspirations of the middle class is a great way of preparing them for a transition to a more creative economy. There is nothing wrong with transitioning from a corporate job to becoming a Disc Jockey. In fact, isn’t that what proponents of AI are advocating — freeing up people’s time to the uninhibited pursuit of their passions.

However, we still need to take baby steps to transition. Before most jobs get automated, there is going to be a huge demand for data scientists, algorithm and user experience designers before we move to an AI saturated world. In other words, before everyone becomes a creative genius, millions of Jobs will be created to bring the AI platform to maturity, sustenance and ultimately, pervasiveness.

I can talk about innovation and disruption all night long but what use is change if it cannot help the masses or if it cannot be operationalized into the mainstream. For change to go mainstream, we need to work with the mainstream. Don’t get me wrong — it can be incredibly frustrating and could be a losing value proposition to affect change through the mainstream. But, we seem to be very familiar with and some have actually mastered the ‘addiction’ game. The question then becomes: how to coat the pill of lifelong learning with the sugar of mainstream addiction to transition humanity peacefully from an AI nascent world to a world ruled by technological singularity?

I don’t have all the answers but a few doses of common sense for those who can take on the challenge of finding those answers.

Standing On The Shoulders Of Robots

You should never imitate others. If non conformity is part of your soul, live unapologetically. Nobody can walk on your own path to discovering a higher purpose even if that road goes through tremendous perils, internal falsehoods and a long time spent living the life others want you to lead. Also, don’t waste time comparing yourself to others.

However, if being a social media influencer is something you truly desire, so be it. My only request is to not acquiesce to outward pressure and to not let yourself become a robot defined by an intellect that only serves an insatiable ego and a very narrow identity. Ultimately, money is important as a means of survival but on its own, it cannot buy you permanent happiness. Neither will fickle social media followers.

Instead, stand on the shoulders of other robots and get rid of your narrow identity by embracing a cosmic view of the world- a world where no perspective is wrong. It is just different. Some have lesser open minds than others. Yet others have more knowledge. The fact remains that if we don’t embrace a plurality of perspectives which is the bedrock of non-violence-violence spawned by imaginary, delusional and toxic, narrow identities becomes our only inescapable future.

To achieve true consciousness, we have to create an awareness unbound by our previous memory. This would mean collapsing the vectors of time and space by acknowledging that there is only one state — here and now ie the present. As long as you are at peace with your present (easier said than done), you don’t need any crutches of external addictions such as alcohol and other vices. You stop being the last robot and truly become a human being in control of your destiny with a huge difference-being ‘happy’ following your own chosen path no matter how different it is.

Writer @ The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR. Twitter@akothari_mba

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