Automation: Cause for Concern or Celebration?

You are walking on a sidewalk in Chicago minding your own business. Suddenly, a little robot comes up to you, trying to make a sale for some product. You choose to ignore it, just like you do every other robotic salesman. When you pass the robot, another robot cuts you off to make the same sale as the first robot! You try passing this one too, but more robots appear, eventually trapping you in a circle, all of them making the same sale simultaneously. The robots have cornered you; they’ve forced your hand to buy their product. And this is only the first block of your walk.

Okay, it probably won’t be that extreme, but robots are taking over our world one by one, whether you like it or not. The world as we know it will completely change within 10 or 20 years due to the ceaseless increase of automation. 

Automation is rapidly changing the job market; millions of jobs which were once done by humans can now be done by machines. You probably already know about the factory jobs, which even basic machines can now do. But, I bet you haven’t heard of the more interesting ones like lawyers, medics or even chefs. A very major AI in making these jobs possible for automation to handle is IBM’s Watson. Watson is an AI program which is capable of analyzing hundreds of thousands of different algorithms and possibilities in a matter of seconds and then choosing the best one. Technology like this can completely change the way doctors diagnose patients. Some doctors have already taken advantage of this opportunity and used Watson or other AI programs in diagnosing conditions, one of them being cancer. Currently, Watson cannot analyze images like X-rays and retina scans, but IBM already has an active research product to expand the capabilities of its AI. Medicine is not the only industry Watson has taken over; “Chef Watson” can now generate new recipes entirely from scratch using its AI mind. It uses its incredible knowledge of mixing flavors and food chemicals to create pairings favorable to the human tongue. Add Miso Robotics Flippy, a robot capable of making food faster than some chefs, along with table delivery drones, and there won’t even be a need for humans. Imagine a whole place fully operated by robots. The thing is, it’s already here. A hotel in Japan called Henn Na Hotel is completely run by automation. From the concierge to the receptionist, every individual staff member is a robot at the human customer’s disposal. All types of other jobs including drivers, telemarketers, and financial analysts can all be taken by robots and may be taken sooner than expected. 

The problem with all this automation isn’t the automation itself, it’s what we should do with all us humans. What happens to us if robots are doing everything? The first thing most people think of is unemployment. If a machine is doing your job faster and more efficiently than you, then what is the point of you, a human, doing that job. According to a new study from Oxford Economics,

within the next 11 years there could be 14 million robots put to work in China alone.

As a result of the jobs robots are taking over, more than 1.5 million jobs have been lost to robots in the United States, more than 11 million in China, and almost 2 million across EU member states. Due to this unemployment issue, people lose jobs, and income inequality is then increased in those countries. A former 2020 democratic candidate, Andrew Yang, became famous for addressing this issue by proposing a UBI. A UBI is a universal basic income, which gives every citizen a minimum amount of income. Andrew Yang explained how automation would take many jobs away from Americans, which would leave them with no source of income. According to Andrew Yang, the UBI would allow a lower class American to support themselves with money funded by taxes and wall street speculation. 

However, there is a very compelling argument that robots will do much more good to humans than harm. After all, robots were made to make human lives easier, not harder. With all the efficiency of these robots, they can actually open up more jobs instead of only killing them. Ethical sourcing officer, Artificial intelligence business development manager, and A.I. assisted health care technician are all examples of future jobs robots will open up. Most of these future jobs are based around working with the robot like the assisted health care technician, which works with the robot to diagnose patients. The saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” could be changed to “A robot is a man’s best friend,” or maybe even, “a man is a robot’s best friend.” Another possibility for humans is the idea of not working, of growing beyond the paradigm of basic labor as a species. An architect called Buckminister Fuller had the idea of man focusing their mind purely on their creative means. He had said,

We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery… The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

Fuller’s idea is even more relevant to our society nowadays because of the increasing rise of automation. If humans are losing their jobs, they can still work, not for the goal of earning money, but for the creative or personal goals they set for themselves. 

Robots and AI are beautiful works of cutting edge technology. Mankind is always looking for new ways to improve their life or to make it easier on themselves. The first robot, made in 1954, basically sparked a new life form. As automation and AI continues to grow, so will its capabilities, to the point where it may be able to think and learn by itself, going beyond its natural programming. The new life of robots is coming, for better or for worse. Will you be ready for them? 

Watson, The Most Powerful Artificial Intelligence Goes Public

watson symbol

Watson is bringing humanity into the future.

IBM’s Watson, the most powerful artificial intelligence in the world, is the subject of a great amount of hype in the tech world. In November 2013 IBM announced that they would begin accepting independent partnership offers from individuals who believe they can apply the technology to their own applications. “Powered by IBM Watson” will become a term you will be hearing more often beginning this year.

The partnerships are just one part of a program IBM decided to launch called “The Watson Ecosystem.” IBM will recruit tech savvy entrepreneurs who have enough experience and motivation to take Watson’s power and share it with the world in the form of an app. The Ecosystem project has a budget of $1 billion dollars, with $100 million in venture funding available to accepted partnerships.

According to IBM,

Partners are building a community of organizations who share a vision for shaping the future of their industry through the power of cognitive computing. IBM’s cognitive computing cloud platform will help drive innovation and creative solutions to some of life’s most challenging problems. The ecosystem combines business partners’ experience, offerings, domain knowledge and presence with IBM’s technology, tools, brand, and marketing.

ask watson

Ask Watson: Like Ask Jeeves, but awesome.

With a price tag of $1 billion dollars and such incredible hype, it appears IBM is preparing for Watson to be their next tidal wave of innovation. In fact, they’ve already begun accepting partnerships, allowing the technology to begin learning and growing on a grand scale right at this very moment.

Related Article: Long Distance Quantum Teleportation is Reality

Absolutely anyone can become a partner. As long as you meet the required criteria, and after Watson agrees to become your friend of course, then you’re in. The companies that currently have a partnership under the Ecosystem are few, but they offer us an exciting future nonetheless. A sampling of Ecosystem Program participants include:

Fluid, inc. – Fluid uses IBM Watson technology to create the Fluid Expert Personal Shopper. This app takes advantage of Watson’s ability to understand human language and scan extremely large databases of data very quickly. This app is your own personal shopping assistant. It can speak to and understand you, and will give you shopping advice specific to what you are looking for. Want to buy a new flying car? Watson will scan the user reviews, prices, product background, safety information, past releases, and future releases from 1000’s of different website at the same time and calculate the best product for you.

MD Buyline, Inc – The Hippocrates app powered by IBM Watson provides users with a personal medical research assistant who researches all the possible evidence that exists before giving a calculated diagnosis. This can help doctors make a more educated decision, and help patients ensure that their doctors didn’t just coast through medical school.

Related Article: AI Prescribes Better Treatment than Doctors

Welltok, Inc. – Welltok is developing an app called CaféWell Concierge powered by IBM Watson that will create Intelligent Health Itineraries™ for consumers. These personalized itineraries will include tailored activities that encourage healthy behaviors for users.  Also, by having conversations and sharing information about your health and how you feel, Watson becomes your personal health, nutrition, and overall well-being guru, suggesting the best course of action for you to ensure you always feel happy and satisfied.

watson process

Watson has a game plan for its own birth!

This is only the beginning. Watson will become exponentially more efficient, more human-like, more adaptive, and more intelligent with each and every user interaction that occurs. Billions of people worldwide will be helping it learn, and the more it learns, the faster it will learn more, ad infnitum. As Watson benefits, so will humanity. We will be rewarded with near infinite and instantaneous ingenuity, information, calculations, hypothesis, and explanations on a daily basis. We are being granted a constantly improving, always expanding brain at our fingertips.  This is only the beginning.

Related Article: The Singularity is Nigh Upon Us: The Merging of Humans with Technology

A particular program using Watson technology is so powerful that it has shown to be undeniably better than doctors at diagnosing illness and prescribing a cure due to its ability to scan, analyze, and cross reference libraries of personal and scholarly information all at the same time.

If you’re interested, you can read about the science behind Watson as well as how and why the technology was created. May as well start studying up on your robot overlord now and get into its good graces.

watson jeapordy

Watson made its debut on jeopardy.




IBM Innovation

IBM Announces 1 Billion

Fluid Case Study

MDB Case Study

Science Behind the Tech

Welltok Case Study


AI Prescribes Better Treatment than Doctors


As America stares down the needle of an empty syringe called Healthcare, we are realizing with more tangible worry everyday that something must be done quickly to solve our medical woes. President Obama has offered solutions such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but we are all well aware now of the cracks in the already unsteady foundation of Obamacare. It doesn’t seem like any viable solution is available, so maybe the answer is to get creative, or even artificial.

In the spirit of bringing the singularity even closer to fruition, a study has found that artificial intelligence may be the answer to the issue at the forefront of political and social debate. Artificial intelligence (AI), aka the intelligence that will one day rule over us with the sweet aroma of logic and rationality (I choose to welcome our robotic overlords), has a history of impressing its human creators, even if one of the most powerful AIs in the world, IBM’s Watson, has a potty mouth.

Don’t let the word ‘artificial’ fool you: AI is smart, so smart that it has recently been shown to outperform doctors at their very job description; prescribing proper treatments. Using a combination of AI designs, namely Markov Decision Processes and Dynamic Decision Networks, researchers Casey Bennett and Kris Hauser from the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing have revealed that AI can consistently prescribe better treatment than doctors and dramatically save on healthcare costs.

The study considered 6700 patients, and randomly chose 500 from the group.  After comparing the results of AI doctors and human doctors, the researchers found that the AI improved patient outcomes by close to 50%, while reducing overall required healthcare costs from an average of $497 to $189, a difference of more than 50%.  We are talking about a 50% improvement in care, and a 50% reduction in costs; these are revolutionary results.

The specific AI that the researchers used in their study was able to think like a doctor.

By using a new framework that employs sequential decision-making, the previous single-decision research can be expanded into models that simulate numerous alternative treatment paths out into the future; maintain beliefs about patient health status over time even when measurements are unavailable or uncertain; and continually plan/re-plan as new information becomes available.

watson MD

The AI can think exactly like a doctor, the difference being that it can do it faster, and can review a patient’s entire history in the blink of an eye. It can also instantaneously factor in new information and compare that information with known and potentially unknown variables. The AI is faster, smarter, has a better memory, costs less, and doesn’t ever yell at its wife.  Moreover, while doctors must spend decades in school specializing in a specific field, AI is a highly trained doctor from birth, and does not require specialization to function optimally in all fields. Keep in mind, if new, relevant data becomes available, all it takes is a momentary upload and the AI has already integrated the new information into every aspect of its being.

Most medical decision made by doctors are based on individual, experience based-approaches, including using intuition. The researchers suggest that in the majority of cases, modeling, rather than case-by-case decision making, is a better solution in every way. The researchers not that:

Modeling lets us see more possibilities out to a further point, which is something that is hard for a doctor to do. They just don’t have all of that information available to them.


AI has a wealth of resources and computation speed at its disposal.  The researchers believe that

using the growing availability of electronic health records, health information exchanges, large public biomedical databases and machine learning algorithms…the approach could serve as the basis for personalized treatment through integration of diverse, large-scale data passed along to clinicians at the time of decision-making for each patient.

Keep in mind that the researchers are not insinuating a total removal of humans from medical professions, rather

even with the development of new AI techniques that can approximate or even surpass human decision-making performance, we believe that the most effective long-term path could be combining artificial intelligence with human clinicians. Let humans do what they do well, and let machines do what they do well. In the end, we may maximize the potential of both.

We are talking about the seamless and lightning fast integration of all medical knowledge and inquiry around the globe.  Instead of being treated by a single doctor, wouldn’t you rather be treated by the collective knowledge and understanding of every doctor that has ever existed?

If you are interested in additional reading regarding AI being used in healthcare, IBM has done extensive research into the matter using Watson.  Using AI like Watson to improve healthcare is becoming an exponentially growing potential.


Wondergressive: ObamaCare and the 49-Employee Company

Wondergressive: The Singularity is Nigh Upon Us

Fortune: Teaching IBM’s Watson the Meaning of OMG

Markov Decision Processes

Dynamic Decision Networks

Indiana University: Can Computers Save Healthcare? 

IBM: Watson and Healthcare

The Singularity is Nigh Upon Us: The Merging of Humans with Technology


IBM’s Watson Avatar

The big bang, arguably the single most important achievement in the existence of everything, has clever ways of duplicating itself. The creation of the universe, the creation of life, the ability for said life to communicate, the agricultural revolutions, the industrial revolutions, the cultural revolutions, the age of the internet, and the amount of open tabs on my web browser have all seemed to explode out of the obnoxiously complete lack of themselves. But they were all of them deceived. The singularity is nigh upon us. Despite the forewarning voice of Galadriel now ringing through your head, the singularity is only potentially terrible. If we can keep the folks over at Skynet in control of their mechanized goons perhaps we will actually benefit from this new age.

Wait just one second, you silly hippy, what, in all of Tarnation, are you talking about?! 

Vernor Vinge is a retired mathematics professor from San Diego State University. Famous for his novels and novellas, Vinge also wrote an essay entitled The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era. The essay, written in 1993, proposes that: 

Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.

The singularity refers to that moment when artificial intelligence becomes smarter than human intelligence or, as Vinge would say, the end of the human era. A spark of awareness, not unlike the big bang, will ignite the quasars of artificial intelligence and computational machines will awaken. According to the article there are several causes likely to usher in this era:


The development of computers that are “awake” and superhumanly intelligent. (To date, most controversy in the area of AI relates to whether we can create human equivalence in a machine. But if the answer is “yes, we can”, then there is little doubt that beings more intelligent can be constructed shortly thereafter. Large computer networks (and their associated users) may “wake up” as a superhumanly intelligent entity. Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent. Biological science may find ways to improve upon the natural human intellect.

That sounds all well and good but how can something come from nothing? Well our flat universe likely did exactly that. There are several observable developments in technological growth that, with extrapolated analysis, lead to a point where advancements in technology happen in seconds.

As we get closer and closer to this supposed milestone humans and computers will become more and more integrated until BOOM the singularity hits and the human race has evolved into something completely new. Just recently the United States was stared down by its First Bionic Eye. Why stop at just sight? The Bionic Ear plants a chip attached to an accelerometer that picks up sound waves. Hearing, check. The sense of feel, a very difficult thing to replicate, is probably a long way away. Even so, Mind Controlled Robotics are becoming a dream, not of the future, but of the immediate present.

We’re only a few robotic developments away from mechanized droids, for Winston’s sake. Holy wow, though, seriously! Imagine the possibilities of a mainstream consumer having access to such technology. The age of  the cyborg is now.

Recreating the computational abilities of the human brain has been a goal of science for a long time. Machines like IBM’s Watson and their SyNAPSE program aim to use parallel processing instead of the old 0-1 binary logic from the 1940’s. SyNAPSE, which is:

…a cognitive computing project called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE). By reproducing the structure and architecture of the brain—the way its elements receive sensory input, connect to each other, adapt these connections, and transmit motor output—the SyNAPSE project models computing systems that emulate the brain’s computing efficiency, size and power usage without being programmed.

Of course this singular reality does come with some major concerns. You’ve heard them and seen the movies about them. As much as there is poetic justice in the enslavement of an entire race, Hu-Mons, by a new superintelligent race, Cyborgs or machines, it seems as though we can prevent this before it happens. As Nick Bostrom from Oxford university puts it:

…it would be up to the designers of the superintelligence to specify its original motivations. Since the superintelligence may become unstoppably powerful because of its intellectual superiority and the technologies it could develop, it is crucial that it be provided with human-friendly motivations.

And, fortunately for the Hu-Mons races, organizations like the Singularity University exist. Their goal is to usher this new age of integration and radical technological advancements with a warm handshake and a nice smile. Which will be nice, because if Arnold becomes a machine-even more of a machine, rather, I would greatly appreciate it if he were on my side. With all of that said, it is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine a future in which humans and robotics are totally independent. For better or worse our fates are tied together. Hopefully we can keep our consciousness free from matrix-esque enslavement. Hopefully we aren’t already inslaved.

For additional information and insight regarding the singularity that will merge humans and technology, check out Ray Kurzweil‘s book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.

Interested in the merging of biology and technology? Well you’re in luck! Wondergressive also enjoys the topic. Here’s a few links to past articles:

Implantable Telescope Restores Elderly Vision

Brain Implants Increase Intelligence

Controlling Dreams and Implanting Memories 

Robotic Legs Controlled by the Brain

First True Cybernetic Tissue Created




Sources and Extra Readings:

San Diego State University:  The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era

Beta News: First Bionic Eye Sees Light of Day in the U.S. 

Extreme Tech: A giant leap for BCIs: Paraplegic woman uses mind-controlled robotic arm to feed herself

Singularity University

Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity  is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology