The most recent xkcd:
'At least humans are better at quietly amusing ourselves, oblivious to our pending obsolescence' thought the human, as a nearby Dell Inspiron contentedly displayed the same bouncing geometric shape screensaver it had been running for years.
Anyone who spends much time trying to get computers to perform skilled tasks can come up with plenty of other reassuring parables. (Of course, anyone who spends much time trying to get humans to perform skilled tasks has a few stories, too…)
More than 30 years ago, Steve Levinson and I wrote a popular article about speech recognition research, in which we predicted that it would be a long time before computers were able to participate easily and naturally in human communications. But we also warned that when the time arrived, there would be serious social consequences, not all of them positive ones.
And some people think that this has already been happening, e.g. David Rotman, "How Technology is Destroying Jobs", MIT Technology Review 6/12/2013:
Given his calm and reasoned academic demeanor, it is easy to miss just how provocative Erik Brynjolfsson’s contention really is. Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his collaborator and coauthor Andrew McAfee have been arguing for the last year and a half that impressive advances in computer technology—from improved industrial robotics to automated translation services—are largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years. Even more ominous for workers, the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine.
Update — I just got this notice for a Music Department colloquium tomorrow:
Why do we want our computers to improvise?
George E. Lewis
The loosely constituted field of interactive music has drawn upon AI and practices of free improvisation in creating a new kind of music-making that includes machine subjectivities as central actors. These “creative machines” have been designed to stake out musical territory, assess and respond to conditions, and assert identities and positions–all aspects of improvisative interaction, both within and beyond the domain of music. Meanwhile, theorizing relations among people and interactive systems as microcosms of the social promotes system design and real-time interaction aimed at achieving nonhierarchical, collaborative, and conversational musical spaces. The resulting hybrid, cyborg sociality has forever altered both everyday sonic life and notions of subjectivity in high technological cultures, and this talk opens up a set of question-spaces regarding the nature and impact of these transformations.
I'll be in the Netherlands, so I won't be able to attend, but maybe one of my computers will tell me about it when I get back.