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June 12, 2017

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Jerry Leichter

"We’ve long been leveraging technology to help increase productivity. Think of engineers using CAD tools to develop complex products...." It goes much further back. Think of any factory assembly line: Humans working alongside technology. Humans working together with technology forming the basis of their cooperation. This was the fundamental driver of productivity gain in the industrial revolution.

By looking back at the results, we can see both the good and the bad. Immense growth in productivity, giving large numbers of people access to products that only the very wealthiest could access before. "Inside work, no heavy lifting": For all the downsides of work on an assembly line, it's not as if what it replaced was always so pleasant either. But - dehumanizing work when people became servants of the technology, their role driven entirely by the needs of the technology that "helped" them.

As we move toward a symbiosis of not just our bodies, but our minds, with technology - how will we choose to use it? Will the systems advise, or command? Serve as mechanisms of human liberation, or of subjugation? (I'm not talking about "war with the machines" - "war with the owners of the machines" is much more likely!)

And ... it's not as if we don't have some examples already. Loan officers at banks used to make decisions about credit worthiness. These days, they serve as the human interface for algorithms that make all those decisions. Advisors? Rulers?

-- Jerry

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