I’m beyond the point that I have to worry about robots, or some other application of Artificial Intelligence — AI — taking or materially altering my job. But as AI increasingly penetrates the global economy, even we older Americans have to adapt.
There’s a hilarious episode in the HBO series Getting On which features robotics and the elderly. Dr. James is able to have a face to face visit with one of her patients living at home via a robot, who lives with the woman, moves around via a joystick that can be operated from the hospital or by the patient. The face of the robot is a screen on which Dr. James’ face appears, and through which she can see the patient. Suddenly the robot is jarred, and instead of seeing the woman, Dr. James sees the ceiling. She tries to refocus the screen, without success. Several hours later, rescue workers find the woman dead. She dislodged the robot when she pitched forward out of her chair.
It’s a dark comedy, to be sure. But it points out one thing a robot can’t do: know that one of its operators is dead.
Artificial intelligence isn’t only robotics. Here’s the dictionary definition:
“the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”
I like many things that I loosely associate with AI. I like Google Nav, which keeps me on the right route whether walking or driving. I mostly like the recommendations Amazon makes for me based on my prior buying history, especially with books. I like that fact that Lyft or Uber can find me when I request a ride. I don’t like autocorrect when I’m messaging — the computer taking over and putting in what it thinks I want to say.
I get the fact that I’m giving up a certain amount of privacy when I use these features. There are some AI applications that I choose not to use, like having an Echo or similar device in my home. I’l turn on music myself, thank you. And I don’t want a device accidentally recording my conversations.
Whether or not I like AI or can adapt to any individual application, AI is here to stay. When I’m old enough to need live-in household support I hope to get it from a person, not a robot. Otherwise, I’m in as best I can be.