Long bevor todays excitement about the imagined take-over or dictate of machine, man was treated and even programmed like machine. Education, the flow and rules of life and measures have been dominated supporting machine and automation. Dystopia is not for machine to take over, rather it’s the reality that people plan and structure their life following machine and it’s necessities.
To recognize it doesn’t need the reluctance of Mormons or the sensitivity of the mislead UNABomber. There’s technology on this planet somehow serving but also commanding humanity. Propagation of machine comes with rules, practice for all aspects of life and gaps, which had to be filled. Machine needs (and uses) man to facilitate tasks it can’t fulfill or where the business case doesn’t allow for automation. These activities had to follow the rhythm of machine. And today many humans, without questions raised, are and even want to be in command by machine.
Paradoxical one starting point in the machine age for humans has been the reconnaissance. An age fulfilled with freeing man and its mind, to liberate people from historical dictates. Julien de la Mettrie, a french medic and philosopher in pursuit of a materialistic view of human nature, published „L’homme machine“. The intend being to free man from being considered a mystic creature of god with all its associated unknowns and secrets. He sketched human nature as comparable to machine, transparent, deterministic, reproducible. Which resulted in an intuition of a machine like being and the obvious consequence to plan and use man like machine. Humans lost the shield of mystics and became a predictable, programmable resource. ~Man transforms from a derivation of god to a derivation of machine.~
Now machine is evolving, from a transparent mechanical thing towards a for most people mystical being. Refined cognitive capabilities, the ability to learn and adapt to predictable change, improved communications and even starting points of social behavior. The level of interaction of machine gets closer to the perception of human interactions. Although the mental model for a dialogue seems far away, the pressure for humans to adapt to machine decreases. Machine may even become an ecosystem of its own, at some point maintaining itself. Means man will increasingly be in charge to administer, inspire and develop future innovations and less operating machine.
As machine grows capabilities to effectively support human qualities of life, man increasingly doesn’t need to behave like machine, be educated for machine interaction or follow programs anymore. Man can get rid of its programming and humans have the chance to become machine-independent individuals. Man might escape the automated domain, forget about schedules and time (another tool to program, time does not exist) and might explore a fresh unique life. Although here comes the point: The progression of man is the real challenge, not the imagined threat by machine. What will humans be not being a clerk to machine? How will human kind evolve in the light of independence of machine?
So why is this a consideration for a design and technology company, busy developing digital value-add and innovating businesses?
- There’s still a huge challenge in front of designers and developers to adapt machine to human interaction levels and to free humans from learning operational practices and closing the gaps of incapabilities of machine.
- Humans and machine don’t belong on the same control level, the same control loop. Pressure by or race conditions against machine have to be avoided. Man has always in terms of interaction level to be above machine. One of the qualities of an automated system is defined by how much time a handover to manual operation takes for humans to regain control.
- Machine has to be build transparently and predictable. Humans need to be able to understand machine and to understand interactions of machine with machine.
- Machine emulating humans and simulating feelings is always close to an „un-canny valley“, a snaplike insight of the unreal. Machine will communicate towards human standards and gain social status, but can’t convey the energy of physical hugs.
- Interaction with machine doesn’t come for free, there’s no community or empathy. Rather each transaction comes at a cost and filling gaps of incapability might be resolved by machine paying humans.
- Domination and predictive qualities of machine will reduce richness of information and diversity. One of the qualities (still) of human life and a treasure design has to protect for man’s domain.
- For people handicapped the objective needs to be to amplify capabilities to be human, not machine.
So if we want to keep richness of life and information bound to this planet, the future is not about being in programmed by machine or to behave alike. The future is about machine to provide support for man to live a human life, to progress to new levels of life. For humans to become “artists” instead of repetition workers, to exchange love physically and literally, to find their individual celebration of life and their own way to spend their time.
The real challenge for human kind is to evolve not following machine.
2018/07/25 by Eberhard Frank