dennis d. mcdonaldRobotRepublic –David Byrne’s recent article in MIT Technology Review caught my eye recently. Called Eliminating the Human, it sure was thought-provoking.

It was also terribly and unapologetically one-sided.

Byrne’s argument is that all technology and all tech progress is really about reducing the need for person-to-person interaction. To prove it, he walks us through various applications and their impact on social interaction including online ordering and home delivery, digital music, ride-hailing apps, driverless cars, automated checkout, AI, robots, personal assistants, big data, video games and virtual reality, automated stock buying and selling, MOOCS and social media.

It’s an impressive list. And he does try to describe how each of those somehow takes humans out of the loop.

But in the end he fails to convince.

The problem with his argument is he totally glosses over engaging in a cost-benefit analysis. He never reflects on what humans get for all this technology and the price they pay for the pleasure. He also doesn’t reflect on how societies, economies, and labor forces evolve regardless of technology.

The next time we have a major nuclear accident, for example, I’ll be psyched to have radiation-resistant robots available to serve as first responders!

out of the loop humans out of the loop ai robotics Industrial RoboticsI do agree with his negative assessment of social media. I meant what I said last year in Social Media Decay and Pseudo-Communication. Media has in many cases served as the enabling vehicle for fake information, one-way broadcasting, conspiracy theories, partisan mythology and constant selling disguised as so-called ‘relationship building.’

That’s bad. We need more humans in that loop — humans that value quality information gathering and fair and accurate reporting.

Also, in predictions like this we are overestimating our ability to predict tech futures. Moore’s Law not withstanding, we humans have a hit or miss record of accurately predicting how any given tech will develop. Who — including Steve Jobs — could possibly have anticipated how smartphone technologies would evolve, much less broad non application specific tech platforms like digital music, 360 video, augmented and virtual reality? AI and robotics are far more embryonic and still, mostly, undecided.

In truth, no one has any idea.

Black and white thinking about tech isn’t the way to go, either. Certainly not going to classify all this “smartphone enabled interaction” as negative, even if it isn’t face-to-face.

And anyway, being able to see and talk with people halfway around the world (or high above us in low earth orbit) is, in my opinion, a Good Thing.

For RobotRepublic, I’m Dennis D. McDonald.

Cover image: IOTT World, All Rights Reserved.

An earlier version of this story ran on Dennis D. McDonald’s DDMCD site and on our sister site, aNewDomain. Read the original here.