I Robot? No, I Creative


In my last blog post I wrote about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it is modelled on the human brain’s neural pathways. However, as the post pointed out, whilst AI algorithms can mimic our thinking to a certain extent, as yet it can’t think at the same level of complexity as us. I’m aware that while some people are excited by the potential of AI, there are others who fear that it will replace human activity in the form of robots. The good news is, robots will increasingly help us by performing specific tasks – manufacturing is an example of where robots are useful—but there is one area in which the robots will not take over, and that is in the realm of creative thinking.

Robots free up time for more human creativity

Merrill Lynch published a report a couple of years back suggesting that 47% of jobs are “at risk of replacement by robots over the next 20 years.” These jobs are mostly in manufacturing and service industries. This kind of statistic plays into the hands of those who fear robotics. But, what we should be looking at is this; these robots will take over menial tasks, freeing humans up to use their time in being more creative. The report asked: “A major question is whether this will empower humans to go further than before, or if people will just be pushed out?”


The positive view of the advance of robots is that there are still many areas of work where the machines simply can’t replace humans. As I mentioned earlier, they can’t think creatively and there are other skills it is unlikely that will replace, at least for the next several decades. There are certainly some professions where we are unlikely to ever see robots.

Robots can’t teach kids

For example, robots can’t replace teachers, because a robot can’t relate to a child through human experience. As Ian Pearson from the World Academy for Arts and Sciences told Business Insider:

“A human will always be able to identify with another human on an emotional level better than a robot can.”

So, if you are a teacher you can feel confident that your job is safe, at least from robots.

Robots likely to make wrongful arrests

Another workforce that is unlikely to see its members’ replaced by robots is the police. The reason for this is that policing requires the skill of making judgements about situations. A robot can’t be programmed to make a judgement about a scenario. If robots were employed in this role, it is likely that they couldn’t differentiate between action that may look criminal but aren’t and an actual crime. A human can make a judgement call about what they are observing, and approach it based on previous experience and other aspects of our knowledge.

Robots can’t motivate

Motivational leaders and management positions are similarly safe from robots. Pearson even points out that people who are leading industry or service sectors will gain advantages from the employment of robots for menial tasks: “You will spend more time with colleagues, more time in meetings, more time in emotional analysis and trying to sway people. All of these other human skills become more important as the information skills become less important.”

Robots create more jobs

And finally, if you are still worried about being replaced by a robot, here is the good news from the Merrill Lynch report: countries like Germany and South Korea that have a high level of robots in manufacturing show a less decline in human employment than those countries with fewer robots employed, plus, “even as robots replace jobs, another 3.5 million jobs will be created because of robots.”

Our creative thinking is unique to us – it will be some time before robots and AI can replace that.

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Artificial intelligence is all around you

Artificial intelligence

Step by step Artificial Intelligence has infiltrated our lives to the point where it is all around us. Its developers have made remarkable progress with its uses; it can play games of strategy with us, but more often it has a more serious commercial use that we encounter every day.

AI is based on the human brain

Human intelligence is the blueprint for AI. How else could its creators construct it? Its very workings are the product of humans and their thinking, so it is natural that it emulates human brain functions. Having said that, it has not yet acquired all our skills, because we don’t even know all the ways in which our brains work, so until we have that knowledge, we can’t replicate it in an algorithm. For example, one of the burning questions amongst those who follow the development of AI is, “does AI actually think?”

Does AI really ‘think’?

The answer is that to some extent, yes it does. The neural pathways of the human brain dynamically exchange information all the time and transmit bits of data to its different centres, such as memory and language. We also have the ability to learn and connect what we learn to what we already know. The complexity of these processes is mind-boggling and each one of us has a unique intelligence; you will rarely find a person who encompasses all the types of intelligence we have catalogued in our world, such as academic excellence, street smarts, EQ, business acumen, artistic vision, manual skills and spiritual wisdom. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But, can AI ever hope to replicate our diversity in thinking?

AI imitates the brain’s neural pathways

Well, it is already able to ‘think’ to a certain extent, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to play chess with AI as the opponent. Instead of neurons carrying information, AI has Artificial Neural Networks (ANN). These are “a type of machine learning algorithm in which nodes simulate neurons that compute and distribute information,” says technology writer Joelle Renstrom. These algorithms allow AI to follow the same ‘layered’ thinking that we do. For example, Renstrom in her excellent article on AI in the Daily Beast, explains how we view a sporting event, taking in an enormous range of diverse information and in processing it, we use, “memory, pattern recognition, statistical and strategic analysis, comparison, prediction, and other cognitive capabilities.” The, what is called ‘deep learning’ of AI is doing the same and we encounter its ‘thought’ processes every day.

AI in your media

Have you ever posted a message on social media about shopping for shoes and moments later you notice that adverts for shoe brands are popping up on your screen? That’s AI. You mentioned shoes; it will give you shoes. And it is capable of finding the type of shoes you like, because at sometime or other you’ve probably browsed shoes online, and now Facebook’s algorithm shows you some alternative brands, and in a style that corresponds with your original choice. Mention that you’re visiting Ibiza on social media and you’ll discover ads for Ibiza-related products when you go to read a newspaper online. It’s uncanny.

There are many more exciting aspects to AI that I will look at in future blogs, including how it will acquire general intelligence and whether or not it will ever have the capacity to replicate human creative thinking. AI is here to stay, so we must learn how to maximise its use for our benefit, rather than see it as a competitor to our intelligence.


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