On the popular Facebook page “Tweeting Status” which shares posts from humorous to touching, a post by a student from the Hebrew University was published: “Who thinks it makes sense that there is a * mandatory * course with a ghost lecturer in the geography department. Yes yes, the lecturer passed away and they decided to conduct the course with videos of the late lecturer and three assistants (who teach three frontal classes and tours). I thought it could only be done in Harry Potter.”
Of course the frustrated student’s post brought up a lot of ridicule, but beyond the joke, there is a much bigger story here about the future of work. To that student it seems unlikely that for what he pays to the university he gets a video course, but if we put the tuition aside for a moment, this is another type of automation that lowers costs for the university. People I told this story to asked how the students’ questions in the course would be answered if everything is in video and the lecturer was no longer with us. So in the short term, as he recounted, there are his assistants who were supposed to answer students’ questions anyway during the semester, but to understand the future answer it is enough for us to hear about a Canadian guy named Joshua Barbeau who tried a beta version of artificial intelligence software to “revive” His loved one who had died of an illness almost a decade earlier. Joshua used their old text messages from 2012 and her Facebook posts for the chatbot to learn to emulate the writing style of his lover Jessica, and soon Joshua found himself having long conversations into the night with Jessica that helped him deal with his loss, with which he has not yet come to terms nearly a decade after her death (for those interested in more to read, look for the “December Project Jessica “).
If we go back to the geography student, it is understandable that such a chatbot could in the future also study well the subjects of research of the late professor and answer his students’ questions during the class.
When we talk about robots and automation replacing people, we refer to simple jobs like drivers, warehouse stewards, factory workers and other Sisyphean jobs, and here we suddenly see that even ivory tower jobs like academia that require much more of our intellectual abilities are becoming a target.
And speaking of the ivory tower – did you think that a ghost lecturer is the highlight? Think again.
The young woman in the video is called Miquela, better known by her stage name Lil Miquela. She is a 19-year-old Spanish-Brazilian actress-singer, has over three million followers on Instagram and… she is not real at all! Miquela is the icing on the cake of a growing phenomenon called virtual influencers. Miquela was created in 2016 by a Los Angeles startup and since then has gone viral, she has been interviewed by The Guardian, Vogue, popular podcasts and has campaigns of no less than leading brands such as Samsung, Amazon, Prada, Dior, Calvin Klein and more, and managed to be included in Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential people on the internet in 2018. Using Virtual Influencers (VI) like Miquela reduces the campaign costs for brands – there is no need to use our favorite celebs, pay them huge sums and succumb to their sometimes exaggerated whims, and of course – Miquela is never sick and does not need sleep. Automation, have we already mentioned that?
So tell me in the comments how much you think your job is secure and what are your plans for the future?