The Robots are Here

YouTube / CGP Grey
YouTube / CGP Grey / YouTube / CGP Grey

Excuse me, internet, the robots have arrived. In the video below, C.G.P. Grey lays out a compelling argument that robots are sufficiently advanced and available that they are on the verge of filling a whole bunch of jobs that we have traditionally thought of as very human-reliant. One of his examples is cab drivers. Take a self-driving car, delete the paid driver, and you've just erased a segment of the economy. (We have seen much of this in factories already, so it's not a matter of whether it can happen, it's a matter of when.)

But it just keeps going from there. It's easy to grumble and say, well, surely my job isn't threatened. After all, I use my creative powers to find and pithily describe YouTube videos for the enjoyment of others. No robot could do that! Except the YouTube homepage does a surprisingly "good enough" version of that already—minus, perhaps, the analysis and Simpsons "I welcome our new robot overlords" jokes.

Here's a sample quote from Grey: "We think of technological change as the fancy new expensive stuff, but the real change comes from last decade's stuff getting cheaper and faster. That's what's happening to robots now." As a guy who has worked in technology for more than a decade (with a focus on mobile tech in the last six years or so), I have to say he's right. Ubiquitous, cheap technology is powerful technology.

Now, the video. If you have fifteen minutes on your lunch break, I think you will enjoy this. It may bug you at times, you may think Grey is wrong on the timeline or the details, but even if that's the case—what's our plan if he's right?

For more on this, there's a lengthy Reddit thread on the video; a full transcript (links to sources and further reading); and of course there's my ongoing coverage of IBM's Watson: what makes it different, how it learns, videos of it in action, Ken Jennings trash-talking it, and some very early coverage. For more C.G.P. Grey, dude has a website and an excellent podcast.