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April 2, 2017

9:35 PM

What’s the point of perpetuating the past and making it our only future?

Francisco Miraval

I would like to know what’s the point of perpetuating the past and making it our only future, as if the past were the only possible and acceptable reality, when all indications are that the future is not and it never was a continuation of the past and, even more, there is a discontinuity from the present to the past.

And it is not only the discontinuity, because we also need to take into consideration the rapid and constant changes which, it seems, surpass the understanding of those who supposedly should know what is going on.

For example, on March 24th, 2017, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said during an interview for Axios (an online news site) that Artificial Intelligence will displace humans from their jobs in “50-100 more years”. Artificial Intelligence is “not even on our radar screen”, he said.

When asked about the chances that in the near future Artificial Intelligence could in fact take jobs away from humans, Secretary Mnuchin said, “I’m not worried at all”.

Personally, I lack -as it is obvious- the access to information and the experience a high-ranking official has so he can analyze what is happening in the country. For that reason, I can’t just disagree with Mnuchin’s statements. I don’t have any reason to doubt of what he said. Yet, something interesting happened just a few days after his interview.

On March 30th, 2017, BlackRock, perhaps “the world's largest money management firm” according to Futurist.com (where the story was reported) announced that around 13 percent of its managers will soon be replaced by “algorithmic solution”, that is, Artificial Intelligence, with the purpose of “improving services”.

Algorithms, not people, will now decide where and when to invest, because Artificial Intelligence is better prepared than humans to “recognize and follow certain market indicators”, according to June Javelosa’s story in Futurism.com.

That means 30 billion of dollars will now be managed by Artificial Intelligence. And similar “displacements” of people by Artificial Intelligence are already happening in medicine, law, education, and practically any other job or occupation you can think.

Too bad there are not algorithms intelligent enough to predict what is about to happen to us, humans, once the algorithms become intelligent enough to actually decide what should happen to us, a thought that worries even a brilliant mind like Stephen Hawking.

A century ago, people could only see the future as a continuation of their present, as an improved version of their present. Even just 20 years ago, people could hardly anticipate what is happening today in our world and in our society.

So, again, what’s the point of refusing to accept that the future is different from the present and so far, we have been unable to anticipate the future? Are we (wrongly) assuming we are more intelligent that our ancestors, in spite of all the evidence showing that may not be the case?

I would like to offer some answers, or at least better questions, but I can offer neither. 

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