This era has been particularly remarkable for insane technological advancements. There is no disproving to the fact that we are currently witnessing the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) which focuses primarily on automation and Artificial Intelligence. This is the reason we have seen rise of heavy industries being partly or fully run by automated processes. No doubt, many of us just see technology as the "saviour" of mankind and what assists us in getting our work done, but have you taken time to look at the dark side? Hold on, we'll be taking some shocking revelations in the course of this survey.
Just like I normally tell people, there are always two sides to the advancement of technology: the good and the dark side, but most times, the dark sides are somewhat encapsulated and masked in the good side that people tend to lay less emphasis on them. Now, the question is; how will you have a solution to a problem you are not even aware of its existence? This is why I deemed it fit to make this survey, at least to let y'all brace for impact of what to expect with further advancement of technology. However, to make points clear before I begin: No doubt, technology is very good and welcomed (I, for one, can't even imagine life without technology), but we will just focus on how to get ourselves prepared for the dark sides of technology... and yes, it does have dark sides which you'll find out soon.
For the purpose of this survey, we will break this into two broad parts so as to have an effective overview of them. We'll start from the one that is least scary:
- Effects on jobs
- Effects on our environment
Effects on Jobs
Have you ever taken time to think about the sole purpose of Artificial Intelligence? Well, just to let you know, it simulates the human level of intelligence in mechanical/electronic devices. In the light of this, it might interest you to know that most industrial automation processes run on Artificial Intelligence. Let us drive our minds back through history. Before the first industrial revolution (1IR - which was initiated around 18th century ref), manufacturing field and other fields of human endeavours were heavily characterized by human labour. For example, in the field of agriculture, to cultivate a piece of farmland, humans would use hoe and other farm implements to till the land with much physical exertion.This was then replaced with animals (bulls, etc) and now we have tractors and even the automated farm tools.
Looking at this holistically, the various industrial revolutions led to digital transformation and everything is now going digital and automation is now on the increase, but at what expense? Of course, simple logic should explain to you that the services of human labour might not be required if machines can replace them and get the work done with speed, accuracy and within a shorter time frame. Just like the example of the farmland I mentioned earlier; why would a farmer involve human labour to till the ground when an automated tractor can be programmed to get the work done?
As more human labour are being replaced by mechanical devices, what do you think will happen to the human workforce? Let me shock you with this striking revelation: An estimation was made by Business Insider based on the available statistics and they revealed that by the year 2030, a whopping 800 million human jobs would have been lost to industrial automation. This is in line with the prediction by the late Stephen Hawking in this report that industrial automation and Artificial Intelligence will decimate jobs (majorly the middle class jobs that require more of human labour).
If you think that it is only the human jobs that will be replaced, then you need to rethink. I recently read a publication of a new technology called Drone Pollinator which has been created to effectively, efficiently, and swiftly pollinate farmlands instead of the natural pollinating agents like bees. Obviously, even the services of bees may not be too required in the near future. Maybe this little video clip of drone pollinator will give you an insight of how advanced technology can be.
All these are happening because of the advances in technology, and the truth is, with all these mind-blowing stuffs we are witnessing, technology itself is still in its infancy. May I remind you that the Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) has not yet been created. If the Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that we have can be this efficient in replacing human labour, what should we expect with the creation of ASI? To shock you a bit: I read a mind-blowing tech review of the designing of Artificial Intelligence that has the ability to code and program other artificial Intelligence. Do you know what this means? A point is coming when AI may not need us to function - or worse case, the reverse might even be the case. Okay let's take a look at the effect of technological advancements and revolution on our environment.
Effects on Environment
I'll start with this question? Have you ever been to a highly industrialized area or a petrochemical refining plant? I, for one, have been to oil refining states in Nigeria and I can tell you this, the air around these areas are highly polluted. The last one I witnessed was horrible; thick fumes pumping out from those plants - this is just to mention the least. You will also agree with me that our cities are filled with vehicles that emit smokes into the environment, industries releasing industrial wastes and so on. An article by Cambridge has revealed that China (the city of Beijing) stands at the top of the most air-polluted cities in the world. Do you know what should be queried for this? Obviously, China is also at the top of industrialization. By interpretation, increased air pollution is a by-product of industrialization.
The above scene is just focused on the release of air pollutants, but what about other pollutants from industrial waste? A particular news made a major headline in Nigeria a few months ago where one of the oil drilling plants in Nigeria experienced accidental massive spillage. The outcome of the spillage was so devastating. The oil flowed to people's farmlands, destroying farm crops worth millions of Naira, and the worst of them all, these spills were washed into the nearby water body and aquatic animals died in mass - you can imagine how polluted and stinky the place was.
Let's Look at these pollutants from another point of view: Have you been following up on global warming? Okay if you have not, I'd like to tell you that the overall average temperature of the earth has seen increment over the last 100 years [ref] - The explanation of this increment is very easy; the earth's atmosphere retains and traps heat through the atmosphere which comprises of greenhouse gases and majority of these gases (CO2, CFC etc) come as by products of industries and engines - and the emission of these gases has been on the increase.
Let's fast-forward this scenario: Imagine if the temperature of the earth keeps increasing, what do you think will happen? Obviously, the polar region with dense ice deposits will begin to melt. This will cause the level of liquid water on earth to increase, and the impact of this will be: many coastal cities and islands might be submerged under water and massive flooding might be imminent... And yes, this scenario has already started. In the later part of 2017, according to this report, a major flooding struck Mumbai and killed over 1,200 people with millions of other people internally displaced. I once saw a video simulation of the coastal cities that might be submerged with global warming and I think y'all should have a view too.
If all these do not make you to brace up for what technology is bringing, then I wonder what will. However with all these dark side of technology, it has formed an integral part of our lives and has assisted us in many ways. I guess we only figured out how to turn our enemies into our allies.
Just like it is applicable to other fields; with the field of technology not exempted; every new level is presented with new "devil". The massive technological revolution has not left us without obvious dark sides as we have seen. But with all these impending threats, if you are given a choice to choose either to live in this era of technological revolution or the paleolithic era without technology, what will your choice be? Well, for me, it is technology all the way.
References for further reading:
- Job threats to industrial automation and AI
- Decimating human jobs by machines
- Industrial revolution processes
- Survey of job loss to automation
- Rise in temperature and the impact on the earth
- Greenhouse gases - Impact on the environment
- Global warming - potential effects on coastal cities
gif by @gtg