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How machines will change the future

CONNECTED WORLD: FROM AUTOMATED WORK TO VIRTUAL WARS, THE FUTURE BY THOSE WHO ARE SHAPING IT - By Philip Larrey
Portfolio Penguin, paperback/ 310 pages/$34.78, with GST, from leading bookstores or on loan from the National Library Board under the ca
CONNECTED WORLD: FROM AUTOMATED WORK TO VIRTUAL WARS, THE FUTURE BY THOSE WHO ARE SHAPING IT - By Philip Larrey Portfolio Penguin, paperback/ 310 pages/$34.78, with GST, from leading bookstores or on loan from the National Library Board under the call number English 303.483 LAR

WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT?

On May 11, 1997, IBM's computer Deep Blue beat the reigning world chess champion Gary Kasparov in a series of six real-life matches. That was the first time a machine, inflexible and non-intuitive as it was, outplayed a human being.

Then in March last year , the computer AlphaGo - developed by Google Deep Mind - defeated Mr Lee Sedol, an 18-time world champion at the complex board game Go.

Are robots now closer to being on a par with people? What would it be like to live in such a world, and lead companies and countries alongside machines? How might morals change?

To answer these questions, United States-born Catholic priest Philip Larrey interviewed those at the forefront of shaping the future, including Mr Eric Schmidt, who is executive chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet; Mr Martin Sorrell, group chairman of the world's largest advertising group WPP; and researcher Anders Sandberg, from Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute.

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Professor Larrey teaches philosophy at the Vatican's Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, where he holds the chair of logic. Connected World is the follow-up to his 2014 book Futuro Ignoto, or Unknown Future, in Italian.

EIGHT KEY TAKEAWAYS

1 In the future, workers will be monitored and kept on track by all-seeing systems, not people.

2 With many people used to absorbing data in 140 characters a tweet, they are losing the ability to think critically. If this continues, future generations will just swallow wholesale whatever they are told.

3 Technocrats like life to be precise, repetitive and decisive, and so, see those who are imaginative, creative and flexible as "distracting". This attitude has to stop if people are to be valued more than machines.

4 Many people will have artificial organs, or new types of DNA put in them. Already, there is talk of implanting a chip in your hand to turn it into a cellphone. All this will change the way people think and act.

5 With 3D printing enabling us to make things on the spot, and with a growing interest in collaborations, there will be a return to, and renewed respect for, craftsmanship.

6 Deft and adept communicators will be in greatest demand, especially those who respond promptly to clients.

7 With many corporations going global, they no longer answer to single-country governments. So, governments will team up and form alliances to negotiate deals and provide services, in place of sovereign countries.

8 Many people uphold rules, systems and processes but ignore the flouting of principles of decency. But in future, honouring principles will matter more than just going by the rules.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'How machines will change the future'. Print Edition | Subscribe