The Battle for Time - Week of September 11

September 19, 2016 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai, Content Editor

The robots are coming! The robots are coming!

Literally.

On September 14th, Uber officially debuted their self-driving cars in a trial phase in Pittsburgh.

This story isn’t new to the car industry (both Tesla and Google are in on it too), but as the Globe and Mail reports it’s “the first time self-driving cars have been so freely available to the U.S. public.”

Some of us will love the idea of smart technology taking over our daily tasks, while the rest of us will dust off our Terminator films looking for clues.

It’s not just cars, it’s art gallery curation, creative direction, and more.

Herein lies the bigger picture idea that comes out of Uber’s showcase: jobs we thought couldn’t be replaced by robots or technology are being replaced by just that.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

Here’s why:

Just how far can technology go to replace the human touch?

There are two primary narratives that take up the dialogue surrounding the impending robotic takeover.

Firstly, it will make our lives simpler by taking human error out of the equation.

Take HARD-CORE’s challenge to the curatorial discipline used in today’s museums and art galleries.

They created the Asahi, which was a camera on a robotic base. It picked the pieces to be included in a showcase and went around the gallery space selecting where the art was to be placed.

The goal? To take the “elitism” out of selecting art. Instead of curating a show based on one person’s taste, this show was based on the robot’s sense of motion, organization and harmony.

In the case of Uber, its driverless cars would entirely remove the risk for distracted driving and add efficiency to navigation by always choosing the most optimal route.

On the other side of this argument is the fact that the human touch simply can’t be replicated, especially in creative processes.

Take Wordsmith, a computerized writer, that takes data from the internet and writes its own content and news articles.

But does Wordsmith work beyond data-driven articles? Does it know how to chase a lead or follow-up on sources’ information? Can it write a human-interest lead versus just quick beat reporting leads? Probably not.

Even at this year’s Cannes festival, there was a panel called “Will a Robot Win a Lion?” While some said yes, others said it’s just flat out creepy.

But more often than not, the creative process needs the human perspective. That’s what makes certain stories relatable or certain images so poignant. As much as robots and technology can add in a great level of productivity, it’s just missing that certain something that can only come from a beating heart and wired brain as opposed to algorithms.

In the test drives, Uber driver and engineers did have to intervene “every few miles” in the driverless models. Yes the computer is fully capable of calculating exact stop distances, but sometimes an unexpected variable can unravel that perfect equation.

What happens when the unexpected happens?

Overall, there’s a changing force that will influence how we do work in the years to come. There’s an argument for the precision that technology offers our creative work, but then there are times where we will need to hit the override button.

Not only is Uber in the race of a lifetime to perfect its work, but we are in a race to show what human work is still capable of.

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?

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The Battle for Time - Week of September 11.