Frightening people with technology

Frightening people with technology

While working at Wipro Bangalore in the early 90s, we had to deploy PCs at 70 branches of the State Bank of India (SBI). Only, we weren’t allowed to call them PCs. They were Automated Ledger Processing Machines (ALPMs). The employees had been told that when computers came into the branches they would lose their jobs. The mere mention of a computer could lead to strikes. I don’t think we fooled many of the employees. People are usually much smarter than we give them credit for.

Something similar is happening today with the introduction of bots which is why I am writing this article. We are being told that whole professions will become redundant because the soon to be released bots are much better then we are at almost everything. These robots will do our work, drive our cars and even invent new versions of themselves.

Now human beings are the dominant species because we make and use tools better than any other species on this planet. When stone age man started polishing stones for tools, s/he could have used them for digging up tubers, at the end of a pole to hunt antelopes, or as a weapon against their fellow humans. We have similar choices with every new technology.

Henry Ford manufactured the Model T at a price point which allowed the workers making the cars to afford and buy them. The purpose of producing products and services is to sell them to someone. If everybody is unemployed and, therefore, can’t afford to buy anything, who are our robots producing for? Perhaps these super intelligent beings will create a sort of monopoly game to exchange useless goods and services among themselves.

I am going to be optimistic and say I don’t believe we will become slaves to the machines as in the Matrix or the Dune series. There will be some humans who will use the bots to supplant, dominate or replace their fellows. However, most of us will use them to improve our lives and invent new productive things for us to do. And since the second category are in the majority, we will attempt to prevent the first from carrying out their nefarious designs even if we are not successful every time.

I cannot imagine how the current employees of SBI would get their jobs done without PCs. I am confident that future generations will say the same of some new, innovative and as yet unheard of technology tools.

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