There’s a lot of talk about the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, building upon the third, which used electronics and IT to automate production. The fourth is characterised by technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.
It sounds important. It sounds clever. But what does it mean for humans?
As we enter the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – what we really should be talking about is how to achieve the ‘first humanitarian revolution.’
Digital humans are key to this paradigm shift. The future is about bringing back the human dimension, and scaling it so that access, conversation, empathy, knowledge, and skills are not constrained or determined by time, rationing, privilege or ability.
A paradox in understanding
In general, past industrial revolutions have removed humans from processes; humans are imprecise, inconsistent, they tire, they are slow to think and act, they age and they rebel against the strictures of process. But removing humans has also removed humanity.
Pundits say AI will take jobs; other pundits say AI will create jobs; some say that humans and robots/AI will work alongside each other. Analysts despair about what will happen to the ‘workforce’.
Yet, the industrial era construct of ‘work’ and ‘force’, of concepts such as logistics, are of little relevance to millions of people who have never been able to fully participate in the industrial revolutions, and are held back by physical or mental incapacity, by health and illiteracy.
Progress? What progress?
Government treasurers and finance ministers lament the ever-increasing cost of welfare and healthcare. Embracing the industrial revolution and Web 2.0 (and emboldened by highly educated consultants) they have moved thousands of forms online, covering the services required by some of society’s most vulnerable citizens, and called it ‘progress’.
But is having information ‘on-line’ in written format using complex language really humane? Quite often, true understanding (even for the highly literate) needs explanation through conversation. Do we offer these conversations? Or is it grudgingly, with significant barriers and rationing: several hours a day, some days a week, not accessible for everyone, and hours on-line, in-line and on-hold.
Bringing back the human dimension
There is a visceral human need for conversation when accessing services, healthcare and education. Regardless of ability, as humans we seek understanding in context through our conversations.
Yet, the industrial paradigm assumes that conversations are not affordable and uses every effort and rationing and channel to avoid face to face conversations.
The industrial paradigm treats people like machines. But humanity is greater than that. Leveraging the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, we now have a once-in-a-lifetime (or even a once-in-history) opportunity to achieve the democratisation of time, of location, of access, of understanding. To move from achieving convenience to a focus on human rights.
The conversational economy is a powerful force that could, once and for all, level the playing field for those marginalised by progress.
Empathetic, natural conversations using 'digital humans' can enable anyone to participate, to be rewarded and fulfilled. The conversational economy, unlike other revolutions, is uniquely human and knows no boundaries.
Putting a face onto AI with the creation of digital humans, upends the industrial model by bringing back empathetic conversations, democratising access and unlocking human potential with dignity. It delivers to everyone the human rights to understand, to communicate and to create.
The rise of the humans
Using digital humans, we could achieve a future in which time is not a constraint or determinant of who has access and in what circumstances. A future in which professional, expert knowledge is democratised for access by anyone, at anytime, anywhere and without judgment.
In the future, the digital human cardiac coach will change the way in which people access and understand cardiac health information – upending the rationed “6 week” rehab approach – to support at any time, for a life time.
Similarly, we will see the digital human mental health coach, as part of mental health support, through natural empathetic conversations, at any time, without judgement. The knowledge of the professional expert human reading coach is democraticised and made available via the digital human reading coach, to all young learners everywhere, at any time, whenever they want. Literacy is democratised.
Boundless information, at any time, for a lifetime.
The ethics of opportunity are forcing a shift away from the industrial, institutional models where one size fits nobody. This first humanitarian revolution could see a quantum change in human outcomes, including fulfilment and engagement in the economy and society, without the gatekeepers of literacy, power and privilege.
The industrial paradigm treated people like machines, and stopped the conversation. But is society ready to contemplate the paradox of the rise of the humans? It doesn’t matter, the conversation has already started.
Marie Johnson will be talking in more depth about digital humans and the Cardiac Coach at the O’Reilly AI Conference in London on 11 October.
Danny Tomsett is CEO at FaceMe.
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