The Robots Won't Take Away Our Jobs — Let's Reframe the Debate on Artificial Intelligence

C1 | Thu 24 Jan | 11:35 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

Presented by

  • Martin Krafft

    Martin ("madduck") is a Debian and Free Software developer of more than 20 years. He's received a High Honors Bachelor in AI, cognitive psychology, and robotics, and wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on tool adoption behaviour in Debian. He's founded several companies, and currently makes a living as self-employed advisor to tech startups, and large multi-national corporations. Martin is a privacy and decentralization advocate, and an Edmund Hillary Fellow, in part for his work on decentralization. He loves blockchain, but doesn't regard it as the holy grail. He actually finds projects such as Scuttlebutt much more exciting. He's currently working on several projects in the space of decentralized digital identity. As father of two girls, he hopes they won't (have to) grow up giving up their privacy in return for gratis services.


A trending theme in the Industry 4.0 discourse is that robots and other forms of artificial intelligence are going to take away our jobs. Such predictions are then often accompanied by dystopic scenery of humans commanded by anthropomorphic machines, painting a bleak future for humanity. It goes without doubt that the fourth industrial revolution will effect change upon society, in some ways similar to its three predecessors, and in others different in ways we cannot yet imagine. However, the robots are not going to replace us, for humans have distinguishing traits, some of which are rooted in millions of years of evolution, and others directly resulting from the way humans interact with their surroundings. While we're likely to see the end of certain lines of work, just like today nobody works shoveling coal on trains, or operating the telephone for others, we will not only adapt to change, but we will be the ones leading it. Big data and data science have given us machines capable of identifying correlations in data that were previously invisible to and unfathomable by humans. In what ways can these be considered intelligent? What's missing, and where are the boundaries? Can these be crossed? Ever? Where are the potentials, and how do we better deal with machines making decisions that affect our lives? What are the benefits of asking these questions? In this presentation, I explore the nature of intelligence, and what makes humans unique, and robots less so. I would like to take the audience on a "tour de force" of 40 years of "New AI" research, which I studied and lectured at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the University of Zurich, one of the leading laboratories in this field. My goal is not just to ask questions, or provide simple answers. There are none. Instead, I would like to empower and invite the audience to reframe the debate about artificial intelligence and robots, especially pertaining to the future of work. Progress in the field is accelerating, and we need to shift perspective and ask ourselves: "what do we want from the robots?", rather than "what are they going to do to us?". Our frame of this debate will inform the way we think about AI and robots, and affect the decisions we make, individually, and as society, about the roles of robots and humans, the potentials of automation, and the ethical and moral challenges associated with the revolution dawning upon us. Linux Australia: YouTube: