Will humans survive in the machine age?

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Will humans survive in the machine age?


Ken Jennings, the American game show contestant, was full of confidence when he said human beings will conquer machines, referring to “Terminator.” In 2004, Jennings garnered 74 consecutive wins on “Jeopardy!” and had more than $2.5 million in winnings, the most in the history of the show at the time. Jennings, together with another champion Brad Rutter, faced off against IBM’s supercomputer Watson on “Jeopardy!” But it ended with Watson’s victory.

Watson was far quicker than others in pressing the buzzer. The victory was shocking because it showed quiz-show winners are decided not simply based on knowledge. Computer experts were surprised that a computer had outmatched quiz-show champions.

Kwon Dae-seok, who is the head of supercomputer company Clunix and was himself the champion of “Scholarship Quiz” when he was a student, said, “In the case of South Korea, it is a task that will take more than three years to accomplish, even if Seoul National University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology collaborate.”

So far, making a computer understand human language has been a difficult problem for artificial intelligence researchers to solve. But what will happen when they do find the answer? First of all, it is anticipated that there will be a big change in the industrial sector. There will be no need for human labor for jobs that require simple responses. Considering the current situation where big-business call centers have moved to third-world countries in search of cheap labor, the result of the development is clear.

In the 20th century, the dream of artificial intelligence researchers was liberating humans from dangerous labor and letting them engage in more creative work. But the reality is harsh. If conflict flares up between humans and computers, it will be closer to the Luddite Movement, in which British textile workers burned mechanized looms in the early 19th century, than the one depicted in “Terminator.”

It is not only the blue collar workers who are on the brink. Nicholas Carr, an American information technology expert and the author of “Shallows,” criticized the intellectual regression of contemporary men who rely heavily on knowledge they retrieve from the Internet. That is why we cannot laugh off Watson’s feat, which came at the start of the age of growth without employment.

*The writer is the content director at JES Entertainment.

By Song Won-seop
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