The Times they are a Changing: How a rally with a robot opened my eyes.
In a rare moment with nothing to do, I decided to take a look at YouTube and came across a table tennis match between a robot and a human male. You would be wrong if you think this leads to a robotish joke. The robot won a lengthy and compelling rally, and my mind wandered into thoughts about the future.
If this robot could respond to every unpredictable shot of the human and then discern when to hit the winning shot, what else could it do? Of course, science is well ahead of my simple apprehensions, and I understand that we are in another technical revolution. It’s here, it’s now. It’s happening.
However, when I saw the robotic table tennis player, it was like the reality of the age had hit me. Of course, at nearly 83, it shouldn’t be of much concern. It is, but will it lead us, this artificial intelligence, to a better world?
Along with my awakening was the release of the Intergeneration Report that takes a peek into the next 40 years of our history and what it holds in store. It was released by Treasurer Jim Chalmers with all the guile of a man who knew his stuff. A treasurer who could hold the crying baby while drying the dishes. A big-picture treasurer in the mould of Keating.
In a sarcastic response, the Shadow Opposition Treasurer, Angus Taylor, suggested that Chalmers should be more concerned with the next 40 days, not the next 40 years.
His reply was that of the Conservative Luddite, who knew naught about the future and even less about the hurdles along the way.
Firstly, let’s look at the science that will guide the future, and here I’m drawing from the Accenture web page, which has much to say about the “digit years” or the world of digital technology that lies ahead.
“For digityears, the guiding pillar of enterprise innovation has been taking processes, even whole parts of the organisation, and digitising them. And while we’ve built a rich and meaningful digital world, we haven’t reconciled it with the physical one.”
The world conditioned itself to the Age of Enlightenment, where the world’s thinking was turned on its head. And secondly, the Industrial Revolution. Now, we are confronted by yet another step in our progress.
“Our Technology Vision last year called out the Metaverse Continuum as the next big step after digital transformation. The metaverse is a watershed moment for the convergence of atoms and bits, accelerating the path to a singular shared reality.”
“We’ve arrived at an exciting frontier of technology innovation for businesses, where we’re not just digitising but putting that digital foundation to work. But it’s also critical to realise that while metaverse, digital twins, augmented reality and robotics are potent ways to get started, they’re just the beginning.
Fusing digital and physical is not only generating new products and services; it’s the force behind a new era of scientific research. Leaders are creating the next set of tools and disruptions to rewrite how the world works. And what’s become clear is that when atoms and bits collide, truly new possibilities emerge.”
Our entry into this new world will carry challenges we have never faced before.
The most objectionable feature of a conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge, science in other words, because it dislikes some of the consequences that may flow from it. Yes, there are known facts in the world.
“… a means to establish an authoritative system of aesthetics, ethics, and government, allowing human beings to obtain objective truth about the whole of reality.”
As we move into another period of significant change, we must ask ourselves what we take and leave behind. Should we make our ethics more robust? What political philosophy is best suited to instigate change? Many questions will arise.
The value of the Intergenerational Report is that it gives the government a view of the future. It tells us what we will face and what is necessary to coexist with a bigger, hotter Australia. The ticking time bomb of an ageing population. Will the young of the time have to pay more tax to accommodate them?
It raises the question of the purpose of tax and how it should be reformed. It questions other means of raising tax; perhaps it is our assets, not our earnings. Our productivity comes into question. Future migration. What we won’t be able to afford is the support we give to the rich now. Capital gains, for example.
Can the budget afford it? Spending increases in health, aged care, and the NDIS reflect the impact of the aging population on the economy. A more egalitarian society will have to evolve, or the less well-off will revolt. Will there be a fragmentation in the global order? Work will undergo fundamental change. Fertility rates will continue to fall.
Do we have plans to confront the fact that we have moved past the date for living safely with climate change? What about the next pandemic, global economic downturn or the current wave of mental illness? Driverless cars and a plethora of new technology, much of which has yet to be invented.
The Intergenerational Report should become a fixture now, with a department headed by a “Minister for the Future”. The fusion of the digital and physical world will happen, and our leaders must be a force behind these enormous technological advances.
“Fusing digital and physical is not only generating new products and services; it’s the force behind a new era of scientific research. Leaders are creating the next set of tools and disruptions to rewrite how the world works.”
In another age of enlightenment, there is no place for negativity.
Continued next week: What should we take with us into this new world?
My thought for the day
Will we ever grow intellectually to the point where we can discern and understand the potential for the good within us?
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