Worried a Computer might steal your job?

When the wheel was invented the man whose job it was to carry things must have been devastated. When the dishwasher reared its watery head, the trade union for human dishwashers mush have been appalled.  Now with the invention of a new super computer called “Watson”, made by IBM, able to beat the two most prolific players of the TV show Jeopardy, are we on the way to a world run by machines? It seems a silly question; that is, on the strength of a computer being able to mimic human linguistic decision making. However, if we are getting this far, how much further can we go?

The Financial Times claims that: “Watson has provoked mostly anxiety – over the practical question of what jobs it will destroy and the metaphysical question of whether talking machines will erode our sense of what it means to be human”. Can a man made machine really erode our sense of what it to be human? They way computer code is written is far removed from the way that the human mind works, and even if we were to create a computer that could mimic human emotions it would only mimic them in a technological way. A computer could never be a human without ceasing to be a computer.

However, even if a computer isn’t human, in either the Turing test or metaphysical senses, could it still be a threat to people’s jobs? Katharine Frase, an IBM vice-president, told Time magazine: “I don’t think that any machine is ever going to take the place of the decision-making process of the human”. For Katharine, this is fine, as long as human decision making is still viewed as better than computer decision making. If we created computers so powerful that they are able to make decisions with creativity, rationality and emotional feeling that supersedes human decision making, then whether the decisions are human or not, the computers must be followed. Hasn’t she seen The Matrix?

Related articles:

Metacognition – Joelle Proust – Philosophy Compass – Volume 5

Emotion – Peter Goldie – Philosophy Compass – Volume 2

1 thought on “Worried a Computer might steal your job?”

  1. Not to detract from your point, but when the dishwasher reared its head, human dishwashers were not unionized. Just like today, they were mostly unpaid and undervalued domestic servants (mothers and wives, that is). When new appliances made their work easier, they bought the appliances and kept putting in the same hours to meet rising standards of cleanliness. As the Ladies Home Journal put it way back in the 1930s: “Because we housewives of today have the tools to reach it, we dig every day after the dust that grandmother left to spring cataclysm.”

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