I for One, Welcome Our New Overlords

Continuing off from last time, let’s talk about the advancement of technology. The advancement of technology has brought leaps and bounds to our society. Due to the industrial revolution, gone are the days of 99% of the world population working on farms. With the invention of mechanical transportation we have shrunk the world to the unimaginable proportions. And with the invention of the computer… well, let’s talk about the invention of the computer in depth shall we?

In engineering there is this theory of Negative Feedback. It is quite simple, when you try to change a system by making something better, you’re inevitably taking something else away. An example would be a wooden table. To make the table sturdier you would require thicker/more expensive wood – increasing the quality of the product increases the price. This has always been true for human inventions, except the microchip. The microchip’s evolution followed the path of Positive Feedback, where if you improve on the product, it not only does not take away something else, it makes everything better. This, while sounding great in theory, is extremely dangers. Uncontrolled positive feedback in any system causes the entire system to go out of control.

The invention of the PC has made our lives easier. It also made innovation and design easier. By making a faster microchip, we enable ourselves to have the tools to design the next generation of microchips, faster, smaller, cheaper. This led to Moore’s Law, which stated that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit (IC) will double every two years. This was true until the point where physics prevented us from making things smaller, which is where we are now.

So what is the consequence of this technological revolution (and yes, it is a revolution, our lives now could not be less different from the lives of our parents and grand parents)? The consequence is automation. Automation has robbed millions of people their jobs, from farming to processing to the service industry. We are even making self-driving cars, which, if popularized, will render about 40% of the world’s population without a job (basically the transportation industry). Remember people complaining in Canada and the states about how the wealth gap is getting bigger and bigger? Automation can be seen as a direct contributor of that. By replacing the most expensive asset in a company (human labour) with significantly cheaper machine labour, the owners of a company will have reduced their cost enormously while retaining higher and higher profits. In layman’s terms, the machines are robbing the society of its money, tunnel feeding it to the select few.

Yes, we as a species have came a long way in the past century to where we are now. We are holding powers unimaginable just decades before. However it would seem that more and more we are losing control. Despite all the technological advancements we have still not solved the most basic problems that plague us as a whole – famine, war, disease. And now more than ever we rely so much on our technology it is almost parasitic. Soon enough, if nothing is done, we may just have to bow to our new machine overlords.

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