Being Human in the Age of Intelligent Machines
Last month I had the pleasure of attending Yale Explores, a traveling event that brings together faculty and alumni to engage in the discussion and exploration of different challenges facing our world. The New York event was “Humans in the Age of Intelligent Machines.” As the name suggests, the panelists discussed the ways in which artificial intelligence and robotics have changed our lives and will continue to do so, and the ethical questions that should be addressed (you can find a materials related to the event, including video, here).
Contrary to what the Terminator franchise has led us to believe, experts aren’t very worried that the robots will someday rise up and extinguish all human life. Rather, the more pressing problem for us is the way we’ve allowed “smart” technology to manipulate us -- the way we learn, how we engage socially, and even how we view ourselves as individuals. Studies show that people are less adept at learning and retaining information if their phone is within eyeshot. Technology has rewired our brains to such an extent that we’re impaired just by the presence of our gadgets, whether we’re using them or not. Our emotional and social connections are also affected by technology -- when we have our phones, we’re 6X less likely to engage with others or have a measured emotional connection.
While technology may hinder social interactions, there is no doubt that it also facilitates them. When my family moved from Turkey to Texas in 1992, the only way I could continue my friendships with my classmates was via snail mail (expensive international calls were reserved for grandma). Long-distance friendships are far easier to maintain these days thanks to social media, email, and free/cheap international calling plans. As an agent, technology may compromise my focus during conversations (according to the data), but it also allows me to respond rapidly over email, connect with distant clients, collaborate on shared workspaces ...
Despite the age-old fear of technology “replacing” the need for humans and taking away our jobs (historical examples include the cotton gin and Henry Ford’s assembly line), technology enables us to do our jobs better, faster, and more efficiently. In addition, technology has made information available to consumers on a scale never before seen, an unwelcome change for those who counted on their superior or exclusive access to data for their livelihoods. However, increased access to information does not obviate the need for true professional expertise, even when everyone is an amateur architect, designer, lawyer, therapist, financial planner... WebMD and new medical technology has not made doctors obsolete; it has made them better doctors (albeit with some new challenges in dealing with their self-diagnosing patients).
The real estate industry is no different. 15 years ago, the only way to find out about available inventory or sale prices was to consult with a real estate agent who was the gatekeeper to all sales and market data. Today, there are many platforms that place pricing data, current inventory, and market trends at consumers’ fingertips. This has changed, and will continue to change, how real estate agents do their jobs. Rather than fear technology, Compass has embraced it as a means to elevate the level of service for clients: agents today can use technology to make the process of buying or selling a home much easier, smoother and smarter than ever before.