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The Age of Augmentation

Brilliant piece by Tim on how technology will Augment us. Kevin Kelly made this point well at Cannes – the best chess player isn’t the best machine – its the best machine and best human player together.

Sure, there will be jobs that are entirely replaced (not looking good for truck drivers or warehouse workers). But for jobs where efficiency or productivity are less important, such as in science, the arts and human experience, – they will be primarily a human territory. “You don’t rank Picasso on how many paintings per hour he is putting out,” Kelly said. AI is not man versus machine, it is humans working with machines. “The best medical diagnostician in the world is not Watson and it’s not a human doctor, it is a team [of humans and AI],” he said, adding: “You will be paid by how well you work with AI.”

Augmentation isn’t about elimination, it is about creation. That’s where the action will be. Tim puts it well:

Technology lets us rethink the very structure of how we do things. Consider, for example, the way that Uber and Lyft have transformed urban transportation. There were connected taxicabs long before Uber — but all they did was to recreate the old process. What we got for our connectivity was a credit card reader in the back, and a small screen showing us ads. What Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick realized was that humans were now augmented by location-aware smartphones, and so you could completely rethink the way you summoned a car. It would be utter magic to someone from the past — that you can click on your phone, and summon a car to where-ever you are, and to know just how long it will take for a car to pick you up.

But when Uber started talking about self driving cars, they lost the plot and started talking only about cutting costs and eliminating workers. Rather than crowing about how they’d finally get rid of those pesky drivers, they should have been talking about an experiment that they’ve run since 2014, delivering flu shots. “Sure, we won’t always have drivers. But just imagine how many other jobs we can restructure and make more magical and on demand once the transportation is even cheaper and more convenient!

Kevin Kelly’s book is well worth a read.

And, somewhat shamelessly, you can read more in Augmented

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