28 March 2018

Could dreams save us from robots and AI?

Articles about the robot apocalypse pop up in my social media accounts all the time. I have attended at least three presentations about job loss to automation in the last year. It is obvious that, as a society, we are very worried about this trend. And one of the survival strategies that is always proposed is to cultivate skills that cannot be performed by a machine and algorithms.

The bad news: machines are getting more skilled every day.

Machines coupled with AI are now learning tasks we assumed -- even until very recently -- could never be performed by robots. Mid-level managers, kiss it good-bye!

Anything that is quantifiable can be done by a machine. That includes those guesstimations that come from your years of professional experience. It's all just fuzzy logic to a machine. Just more math. The things that machines cannot do involve the things that make us human. There are things machines cannot do simply because they are not human. But what is a human being, really? Until now, that was merely an interesting theme to examine. Now, the answers to that question are the key to our civilization's survival. 

So this critical juncture in the story of the human race actually forces us to examine one of the perennial philosophical questions: What is it that makes us human? Emotions? A sense of meaning? Aesthetics? The capacity to love? The experience of awe? Intuition? Perception of the numinous? These are all essential qualities to be considered. I would add to that: telepathy, the capacity to see through time, the ability to intentionally transform our own natures.

And dreaming.

Machines (in spite of any poetic notions the great Philip K. Dick had) don't dream. It would be far-fetched to assert that any of the processes AIs go through can be qualified as consciousness. This facility we have for internal experiences is uniquely human. This reflection of our conscious, external lives, in which we receive messages and impulse from mysterious sources beyond our individual, physical selves, is something no machine will ever be able to replicate.

We will always have a source of wisdom and insight that comes from our being human.

So how do we survive the robot apocalypse? Certainly not by trying to outdo machines at things they do faster and more accurately than we can.

We have to cultivate those qualities and skills that are part of our essential humanness. And one of those qualities is the facility to dream. Cultivate it! Learn to do dreamwork! 

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