Taylor Swift, Rishi Sunak and bus drivers may be replaced by AI robots but reckon I'm safe until someone invents Artificial Stupidity – Vladimir McTavish
Who would have guessed that the journey into the future would start in Fife? But that is exactly what happened this week when the first passengers crossed the old Forth Road Bridge on an autonomous bus.
While the bus is driving itself, they still need a driver on board to make sure that the robot vehicle doesn’t go completely haywire halfway across the river. Further to this, there is another employee on board in order to sell tickets.
So in some ways, this is a return to the bygone days of bus conductors, an utterly alien concept to anyone under the age of 30. Unless they watched re-runs of the 1970s’ sitcom “On The Buses”. Of course, in this day and age, they are given a more grandiose title. They are bus “captains”, similar to the ticket collectors on the Lumo train service to King’s Cross who are termed “ambassadors”.
When I was a kid, bus conductors were common but robots only existed in science fiction. Now they are everywhere, involved in virtually every realm of human activity. So much so that, when checking my e-mail, I am often asked to prove that I am not a robot. I’m assuming it’s another robot asking me to do this.
We’ve all been asked to do this at some time or another. In order to prove I’m not a robot, I have to click on every picture on the screen with a bicycle in it. Someone must surely have invented a robot by now that is able to recognise a bicycle when it sees one.
While robot technology has long been used in manufacturing and medicine, people working in the creative industries are beginning to feel threatened too, as evidenced by the recent strike by Hollywood scriptwriters who were protesting about the proposal to introduce AI into their workplace.
Already, a program has been developed that can create plays apparently identical in style to original works by Shakespeare. Up until now, it has taken an infinite number of monkeys typing at random to do that.
It has been said that AI will be able to churn out endless Taylor Swift songs which all sound very similar, just as Taylor Swift herself has been doing endlessly for years. I reckon a robot would be a lot less annoying into the bargain.
So-called human creativity can be over-rated. Let’s not forget that it is actual people creating all the mediocre pap on television these days. Surely, an AI program could come up with an improvement to Mrs Brown’s Boys and Cash In The Attic.
AI may even enter the realm of politics, if it hasn’t done so already. Look at the bland characters making up the current Cabinet. Would anyone notice if the likes of Grant Shapps and Rishi Sunk were to be replaced by robots?
I think my job is probably pretty safe. I’m not saying that I have some kind of unique skillset and that it would not be possible to create an AI comedian. I just reckon the robot itself would intentionally malfunction when programmed to drive for two-and-a-half hours on a Saturday, and then stand on a stage talking rubbish to drunk people in Aberdeen. That would require some boffin to invent Artificial Stupidity.