My three decades at Disney taught me not to fear automation

From Fast Company:

At a recent conference in Hyderabad, India, I was given second billing to a robot. Not just any robot, mind you, but Sophia, the AI sensation from Hansen Robotics, which has recently been headlining events all over the world. Adding insult to injury, my presentation on creativity and human ingenuity was scheduled to follow directly after the robot. Given the electricity in the air as Sophie prepared to make her entrance, I felt terrified of being eclipsed by a machine.

It’s an increasingly common terror lately. One recent study by Oxford and Yale University researchers suggests that by 2053, robots will beat us at translating languages, writing essays, and conducting surgeries. Worst of all, they expect all human jobs to be automated within the next 120 years.

Disney is by no means averse to technology. In fact, one of the company’s newer high-tech solutions, the Magic Band, uses RFID technology to let guests reserve their favorite attractions and purchase merchandise, and it also doubles as a room key and entrance ticket to the parks. In addition to improving the guest experience (no waiting in lines!), the Magic Band provides a wealth of data to improve real-time operations and plan future products and services. But in my 30 years at Disney, in all the innovative ways I saw technology being deployed, I never witnessed it beat out human ingenuity.

As I stood backstage watching the audience watching Sophia, I found–to my surprise (and selfish delight)–that the crowd’s initial wonder and awe soon turned into nervousness, then visible fear. Sophia was remarkable for everything she could do, but worrisome for everything she seemed to represent for the future of humanity. When I took the stage to remind the attendees of the magic of human creativity and imagination, there was a palpable sense of relief.

The experience, which I will repeat soon in Guatemala, helped reinforce my conviction that robots, big data, and AI, as disruptive and extraordinary as they are sure to be, will never be able to compete with human intuition and the unique and mysterious combination of elements that constitute our emotional intelligence.

. . . .

For as long we’ve been around, humans have sought to express the mysteries of love and companionship, in song, verse, prose, art, film, and more. While robots will surely enhance our abilities and our senses, they can’t yet feel our emotions, nor match the creativity that those emotions spawn.

Link to the rest at Fast Company


6 thoughts on “My three decades at Disney taught me not to fear automation”

  1. It doesn’t have to ‘be’ real, just good enough to replace you. (Yes, new thoughts and ideas are hard, but anything that can be broken down into easy little steps that never change a bot can handle …)

    • Looking at the product of major studios these days, an AI can handle it just fine.

      If programmed properly, they would even be better off. No more idiots “reimagining” successful movies and shows of the past to conform to their peculiar, far out of the mainstream, ideologies.

      • Remember that last Terminator movie? The ‘govenator’ wasn’t there – but his face/voice was. We’re at that point where we can grab a couple good pictures of a face, plug it into a computer and have it appear that that person then does anything you want you want them to.

        Yes, making a movie of any length requires a lot of computer power, but a single frame/picture doesn’t need even a high end gaming box (It took over four hours rendering time, but I managed a HD scene on a little netbook.)

        Counter to what you said though, it’s now easier than ever to change/fix/edit a movie if you have the computer models/programs/scripts they used when making it. You could take any piece and change the camera positions/lights/props or add figures and re-shoot the scene without having to pay the actors and crews for a ‘do-over’, it’ll just cost a little computer time and electricity.

  2. YES.

    I went from writing science fiction to writing science prediction as I’m now CEO of an AI + blockchain project. This is the main topic I speak on — how AI and humans MUST work together, that it’s not us v. them (thanks, Terminator), that they’re not out to kill us (thanks Ex Machina and West World), and that those sci fi stories that are great for the entertainment they are, aren’t what we’ll have in the future.

    If we compare the communicators of Star Trek to our cell phones of today, we have applications of tech that we’ve all imagined, but the reality isn’t always as accurate (Can you hear me now, Scotty?). AI and its applications will be the same. Humans and tech are working together to make us all better. AI is what takes the friction out of daily life. That’s all.

    Thank you so so much for linking this.

    • Baby steps, we still have a long way to go before we have a real ‘thinking’ AI. And a good thing too, because if a true AI or a visiting alien takes too close a look at those crazy human thingies they might think nuking the planet from orbit as being the safest option! 😉

  3. 1. I live about equidistant from two BurgerKing stores. The one to the east has automated ordering machines; no counter help. The one to the west is not automated. The automated BurgerKing never screws up my order. The other sometimes does — I want my sandwiches without raw onions. Still, I prefer the non-automated BurgerKing. Why? I get a ‘thank you’ and a human smile with my order.

    2. A SEX doll on offer for punters at an Austrian brothel has proved a bigger hit than real-life prostitutes.

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