Will robots take my job? (And if I am a humanist?)

Original author: Stephen Andes
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Automation and the future of history and (or) historians.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

Stephen Andes is a professor of history and reflects on the advent of automation in the humanities, some of his ideas are mine.

Let's start

Imagine a grim future, a landscape that has suffered from war, drought and famine. The sky darkened. The robots are the masters of mankind, and the masters are cruel. People are resource collectors or the resources themselves. Biological meat batteries, assembled to serve the terrible mechanical empire.

And if presented, tell me, in this dark fantasy, will robots take away my work as a historian?

Yes. Of course!

(And, to be safe, if you are reading, Oh, Great Lords of Robots, please accept my devotion ... )

But the question is whether the robots will take my work, actually has little to do with nightmares from science fiction.

This is the real question. After 20 years, or 50, or even after 100 years, computers and artificial intelligence will reach such limits that human humanitarian professions - linguists, writers, poets, artists, and even historians - become obsolete?

Reflections on this can change the way we perceive the humanities today, and of course history in particular. How do we make sense of our experience, and how we tell it. And how will the following tell it based on our vision.

The answer sets us the task of explaining how and why we do what we do.

Historians are almost invisible

Are there many historians among you? And among friends? And how many do you hear about in the media? Do they even exist except in school or university?

And we could be in the trend or even ask it, we would be useful historical marketer. Of course , we would say, history and the humanities are exactly necessary for society! Nobody wants to live without the past.

But why are they so important? Why are they so necessary? What do you get and what skills do you develop by studying history and other humanities?

And the robots and programs seem to force us to find these answers.

What now

In the past 10 years, IT professionals and programmers have begun publishing literary works created by computer programs. None of them fully passed the Turing test or the AI ​​test developed by Alan Turing (in fact, it is a litmus test about whether people determine that the voice, the product, the song, the book were created by the program and not by the people).

Already in Russia there is a novel written by the program . Professor MIT has published a book in Harvard Press, using a program to work on it. ( It looks like Harvard Press has published my latest manuscript book! ).

Robots are helping us everywhere now, this is not news. And it is believed that what is done with the help of programs, everything becomes better and more accurate. Face recognition . Cars without a driver. Or the same novels. The list can and continue.

One researcher predicted that "by 2030, up to 800 million people in the world could lose their jobs because of robots and automation, which is equivalent to more than one fifth of today's global workforce."

Once we were afraid that robots would replace people in production, and now we can easily imagine the future where many administrative and bureaucratic processes will be carried out by programs.

Computers improve skillswhich we thought were completely human. Problem solving and also their warning. Correction of errors and recognition of the entire context. Local analysis and distributed control.

All this makes us think more about what people do best? And how can we, the humanities, use new technologies to do our job better?
And this leads to the idea of ​​using what we use in history - participation, interpretation of evidence, retelling of events - and apply it in technical areas. Cool!?

Can historians do something better than programs? We will ask them, namely, “WILL ROBOTS TAKE MY JOB? ..”

Screenshot from Will Robots Take My Job? .. 44% probability that the program will replace me.

44% is very decent, the phrase below "Start worrying" also does not give optimism. Now you understand why I am writing this at all.
However, let us note that people in this profession can do better than programs:

“Explore, analyze and interpret the past as recorded in sources such as government and institutional reports, newspapers and other periodicals, photographs, interviews, films, websites and unpublished records, such as personal diaries and letters.

Yes, this is a pretty impressive list. Optimism has become a little more. And it turns out that it is very, very difficult to interpret. Well, according to robots, so far. And only people can really do it, at least for now.

What does the historian

Tells stories, probably. Business is ... But ...

The story of a story is an interpretation . This requires the historian to take what has been written on this topic before, by other historians, and combine it with new data known to date. You can talk, it requires imagination . Exactly, as well as thinking in perspective . Keep in mind the whole story and its finale. And the responsibility , because the next generation will give the story based on mine.

Philip Dick's classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968), plays with the idea of ​​the consciousness and imagination of robots. The novel, as is known, became a source of inspiration for Blade Runner. And leaves the robots a significant drawback, namely the lackempathy . That is how Decard distinguished between people and androids. While new models do not know the imagination, empathy and bitterness of loss . "All these moments will be lost in time ... like tears ... in ... rain"

Programs can improve the form and style of writing the text, correct mistakes, but what about intuition, artistry, experience, sympathy ? That individual, (I specifically leave the word soul here and hereinafter) that each historian puts in his stories. This is still a monopoly of people.

You can breathe out a little, and throw off, say 10% from that picture. How to throw more? Maybe, as the writers also use programs and other technologies? Can the program help me?

I think yes

The historian of the future will have to rely on technology to better tell their stories. Digitizing sources has already begun. Computers will allow us to extract and analyze data that is too large to be processed in conventional ways. They allow you to save what would be lost on other media. And of course the Internet allows you to have access to everything anywhere . Computer literacy will be crucial.

And it is beautiful. I mean, getting digital photos of my documents from the archives is a huge benefit. There is already a program for converting digital photos into searchable documents .

Technology is definitely our friends, and possibly future colleagues.
If, what for robots, I remind you, Stephen Andes is a professor of history. He likes robots. =)

Country level view

The American Historical Association ( AHA ), a professional association for historical discipline, recently released a list of skills that historians need. And these skills, fortunately, will be transferred to other areas.

We can help specialists in history and other humanitarian sciences, if through the STEM methodology (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) we decide to provide them with market skills by improving the education system.

The AHA has identified 4 areas in which this education should be concentrated:

Communication. Students should be required to practice the transfer of their knowledge and research to a wide range of audiences through various media.

Cooperation.Curricula should provide intellectually appropriate opportunities for students to work together with common goals, both within their own discipline and outside it, including disciplines outside of the humanities.

Numerical Literacy (Numerical Literacy - friendship with mathematics) : Graduates who lack the basic threshold of quantitative literacy are at a disadvantage in their careers both inside and outside the academy, except for a small number of cases when the historian can work successfully, not occupying myself with administrative work.

Entrepreneurial approach : higher education should inspire students with confidence in their abilities and knowledge. Helping to go beyond the comfort zone and actively join the business after leaving the school.

Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

In other words, education in history is not only the training of professors. It is a training for people who know how to explore, how to use technology, and how to use intuition, empathy and artistry to tell interesting stories about the past, present and future.

Yes, we will need professors who write books and classrooms. But we also need businessmen and populists who want to make history as a science better and more accessible.

Historians, philosophers, linguists, anthropologists   - all these areas are necessary for the future of the robotic world.

A dark future is where historians did not understand that they, practicing humanities, are important in this future and can play a prominent role.

Imagine a bright future, where we offer lessons on the history and ethics of cloning. Or schools for entrepreneurs who want to do research and it is interesting to tell (or sell) them. Engineers studying the history of the impact of technology on humans. Politicians who are completely without history and stories.

Thus, the answer lies in the fact that robots will not take up my work if we decide to better determine what human skills and abilities are in demand in an increasingly robotic world.

But, what are your thoughts? Will robots do your work? How can we become better in the human aspect in the era of robotization?

Yes, it may not be new, but it seemed interesting to look through the prism of history at the humanities in the digital world. I hope it was interesting and thanks for reading.

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