"Mr. Roboto" is a song by the American rock band Styx. It was released in 1983 as the lead single from their eleventh studio album, Kilroy Was Here. It was written by band member Dennis DeYoung, and it reached #3 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1983.
The music industry trade magazine Cash Box reviewed the single, saying that "the group sings of the struggles of a creature with a human heart and an IBM brain”. The song bemoans the plight of 'modern man' being oppressed by new technology. I was a junior in high school when the song was released. At that time, the song and video seemed like a farfetched tale from a futuristic science fiction movie. For those of you who need a reminder, a YouTube link to the video is included below.
Forty years later we are once again watching new machines and technology invade our human environment. The potential impact of this is creating both opportunity and fear. In today's example, the machine comes in the form of artificial intelligence or AI. We know from history the adoption of new technologies has sped up dramatically over the last two decades. As you can see in our first chart below, starting in 1915, it took many years for the mass acceptance and the purchase of new inventions such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and automobiles.
However, you can see that since the turn of the century, new technologies have gained much greater market penetration in significantly shorter timeframes. Everything from personal computers and the internet to smartphones and social media have been accepted and adopted much more quickly than what we previously had experienced.
Now, we have the introduction of a whole host of artificial intelligence tools bursting on the scene of both our personal lives and our work environments. This process is moving very quickly and is creating uncertainty for many people. This has been led by the introduction of ChatGPT late last year. According to a June 26th article from the website zdnet.com, “ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool driven by AI technology that allows you to have human-like conversations and much more with the chatbot. The language model can answer questions and assist you with tasks, such as composing emails, essays, and code”.
The adoption of this new technology has hit 100 million users faster than any previously introduced technology we have been introduced to. The use of these types of AI tools is coming more quickly than regulatory bodies may be able to keep up with.
This will have massive implications for work and school environments. There will be incredible opportunities for those industries that figure out how to use these tools to augment human intelligence and capabilities. I recently talked with a physician client who told me that he now has an AI tool running in the background that helps him in determining diagnoses much more quickly than he could do on his own.
In the 1980s, Styx voiced their concerns about man being overtaken by machines. In the 2020s, we are seeing these machines introduced into our lives at a speed we couldn't imagine just a few years ago. I have heard experts on this subject state that in the next few years people will either figure out how to use these tools to do their jobs better and faster, or they will be working for someone who has.
Please remember that 120 years ago people who made horse buggies and whips feared the invention of the automobile, as it would take their job. However, we know that new technology has historically created new job opportunities that we may not even dream about or understand currently. We know that people tend to fear things they don't understand. That is why we wanted to share some initial thoughts about artificial intelligence and machine learning with you today. We should seek to understand it because it will be part of our future as we continue “Moving Life Forward”.
© 2023 Jesse Hurst
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