The road ahead… the longview. Please fasten your seatbelts!
It seems every time I sit down to write I am looking at what others have to say which is why I am going out on a limb to describe what I am actually feeling about the future of our industry: shipping, freight, trucking, logistics, transport. And the future of humanity itself. And this event called the singularity.
- We know change is happening now, it’s not something that will happen far down the line the way the first millions of years of humans on this planet when our ancestors didn’t do a whole lot.
- Moore’s Law – Computing technology is becoming more powerful and also becoming less expensive – exponentially. The technology of the next 30 years may be unimaginable to our present minds. Just as prehistoric man might not be able to conceive of self-driving trucks because he would not even know what a truck is, there are likely innovations and discoveries in our midst we cannot yet see on the horizon: our minds must evolve first to create the technology.
- There is debate back and forth about when the truck industry will shed jobs in the most catastrophic way. Presidential hopeful, Andrew Yang and Silicon Valley guru Vivek Wadhwa think it’s coming soon. They seem to warn: we should be careful with this technology and protect and safeguard our people as any good stewards. The government seems far less concerned with a laissez faire attitude towards automation. No doubt lobbying from Google’s Waymo, Uber et al plays a part. Once the cat is out of the bag every corner of the earth will feel the effects positive and negative.
- In 2045, we may achieve the singularity predicted by Ray Kurzweil where machines transcend humanity. We can only look to science fiction to gain a hazy insight into what this would mean but some believe it would mean a merger of human and machine.
- One of the basic questions we in the logistics industry – drivers, dispatchers, brokers, etc – may have is where do humans fit into the future? How can a person ensure they are developing the right skills to maintain employment and career? Will my job still be around in a few years? Good question. Read on.
- Mark Cuban thinks philosophers and liberal arts will be valuable in the future. Why would this be? Because a machine can do the accounting, drive the truck, manage customer service, do every kind of computing but it can’t sincerely express what it means to be alive. We will still need humans to remind us of our humanity as the world turns itself over to the fate of AI.
- The soft skills of creativity, critical thinking, active listening, empathy will not be easily duplicated by machines however humans may begin to rely more on machines in the future if we saw a declining birth rates but life extension. If humans are living longer but there are fewer care providers for them, machines will definitely rise to the occasion.
- Are you a creative technologist? An artisan entrepreneur? A philosopher that codes? The differentiating value proposition that humans have over machines is not their efficiency. It is in fact our flaws that make us endearing to other humans and our desire to overcome them (This Rocky Balboa and Luke Skywalker!) In the future we may be reading Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra on overcoming and/or Joseph Campbell on the hero’s journey. Machines do not have fears to overcome, dreams to realize – only humans.
- In present time, the trucking industry is dealing with the ELD mandate. This is a mild issue compared to the larger issues truckers face in terms of health and fitness as well automation. Truckers best polish up on the soft skills of communication and critical inquiry and comfort with coding, data analysis and engineering. Humans will have to work with the machines as colleagues, understand their language and logic.
- Abraham Maslow gave us the concept of the hierarchy of needs. At the very bottom humans needs shelter, food and water. At the very top of the hierarchy we often recall self-actualization; however towards the end of his life he added another layer to the top: transcendence of self. Stepping onto the moon was once considered a great leap for humanity. That will one day be overshadowed by the transcendence achieved through machines. Or it could all be a pipedream and the singularity of 2045 could be a disaster. We have no way of knowing until we get there, but if human history has revealed anything it is that humans have a propensity for war and conflict. (The humans of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings are the same that inhabit this world.) Machine intelligence might be a great arbiter for global conflicts, machines might become the ambassadors, the spiritual leaders, and the CEOs because of their supremacy in analyzing data, predicting outcomes and being unemotional.
- Humans may not be capable of achieving the tip of Maslow’s pyramid without machine assistance and/or a merger of the brain and body with machine. Transcendence of the self may come at price of humanity and the ascension to the next step on the evolutionary ladder.
- Does that sound too grim? Let us put things into perspective. Maybe I’m wrong. Even in the fantasy world of Star Wars Han Solo and Chewbacca pilot the Millennium Falcon – there is no machine intelligence and the droids can be very friendly and hospitable. We created the bots to represent the best in us: our capacity for caring, loyalty, compassion and humor. C-3PO and R2-D2 serve their masters and nothing else. Maybe there is hope.
- Well, what’s your idea on the future of logistics, humanity and the singularity?