14 February, 2017

"Humans Need Not Apply"

Book Review
"Humans Need Not Apply --- A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence"
Jerry Kaplan,  Yale University Press

The book explores the field of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics -- as we understand them.  The author prefers to use the terms "Synthetic Intellect" and "Forged Laborers".
There are interesting references to real world applications and potential uses (some speculative, some intriguing, some amusing) as well.

The author takes time to explore the increasing income and wealth inequalities as automation improves return on capital to the disadvantage of labour.  Some time is spent on ethical questions and moral dilemmas.  One chapter goes into the darker side of synthetic intellects being able to use humans (becoming our overlords ?) but the book ends on an optimistic note about the future of AI.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in AI and Robotics.


12 February, 2017

The Boy Who Sold Vegetables (aka "The Vegetable Seller")

Short Story
I saw him at the side of the road as I was walking to the station that morning.  Selling vegetables that he had laid out on the jute sack.  Just a few different vegetables.  How much would he earn selling such a small lot of vegetables, I wondered.

On the way back from work, in the evening, I noticed that he had moved across to the other side of the road --- probably following the Sun as it moved from East to West, settling down in the shade of a tree.  He didn't seem to have made much of a success selling the few vegetables.  Just on a whim, I stopped and asked him "Kya bhav aalu ?"  ("What price the potatoes ?")  He named a price, hardly looking up at me.  I had no idea what the current retail price was for any vegetables.  I never did the vegetable shopping in my household.  A woman walking past overheard and stopped and said "Badshahi aalu hai kya ?  Is kimat pe kitne bechega ?" ("Are the royal potatoes ?  How many will you sell at this price ?").  The boy just shrugged his shoulders.

I wondered about careers. I was a junior executive in a rapidly growing corporation.  Soon I would be a deputy manager.  Who knows what rank I would be holding 10 years from now.  Then I asked myself about the boy.  Would he still be selling vegetables 10 years from now ? At the same location on the same street ?  Or would he be dead in some alley, killed by the drugs he might have become addicted to, just to escape the misery of his life ?

Life went on for me.  I ignored the boy the rest of the week.  I even forgot about him the next month.  I moved to another location, with a promotion.

Ten years later, I happened to return to the same street to meet a long lost friend of mine.  Did I see the boy, now ten years older, a teenager ?