During a recent debate event, I came across an interesting topic. It related to the future of businesses and the nature of employment itself. Technological developments in the last two decades have really improved AI a great deal. Advancements have made it possible for machines to take over complex jobs that could leave millions of people unemployed.

Work Automation

The idea of automation of work isn’t new. Since the industrial revolution, many of the repetitive tasks required for producing goods have been transferred to machines. This is particularly true in work requiring hard, physical labour.

Take manufacturing and construction businesses for instance. These businesses made use of heavy machinery and equipment to mass produce goods and significantly reduced the need for workers.

Automation isn’t all bad though. By transferring repetitive and low skilled work to machines, we can give human beings time to pursue work and hobbies that they find interesting. No one seriously wants to pick fruits and vegetables from the fields all day long, or work in garbage disposal. These jobs are prime candidates for automation.

The Development of AI

The real problem is the development of AI which gives machines the ability to think like humans. AI that is

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

capable of decision making in complex situation can take over the more complex professions that require deep analysis and critical thinking.

We already have AI at a level where it can take over tasks like cooking, cleaning, printing, surveillance and managing production cycles on its own without human input. Professions like medicine, law, accounting, healthcare and education can also be taken over by machines.

Experts believe that within the next twenty years, we will have AI that is capable of taking over these professions.

Even the more creative professions are not safe. Developers are already working on AI that is capable of creating music, literature and paintings by analysing existing pieces of art.

Fear of Robots

The fear of robots and machines taking over is part of the popular culture. I’ve grown up watching movies where robots turn on their masters and start killing humans in a bid to gain control over the world.

All of that is just fiction of course. However, there are real threats that development of AI and robots poses, at least to employees and workers.

Robots that are capable of doing everything a human employee can and do it better, while costing less in maintenance will be preferred by employees. There is still some time until that happens, a decade or two maybe, but there should be some concern for people in my humble opinion.

Take the example of Sophiabot, an AI robot under development from Hanson Robotics. It is suggested that she is the first complete android with facial expressions, emotional intelligence and human-like movements. She is capable of learning from her environment and human interactions. However I personally found her lacking.

When she was first interviewed and asked what she wants to be it was so old school. She said she wanted to have a job, a kid and the same old story. That is not what everyone wants. Nor does it fit in with the way that society is moving were automation is meant to give people more time to do things they enjoy. And needless to say Sophie was created by a man!

What Needs to Happen

There should be cause for concern but no need for panic. We humans are very adaptive. Whenever a new challenge comes whether in the form of natural disaster or technological advances, we always find a way to come out on top.

Coming back to the debate and future of employment, I think we need to change. There is an urgent need to update our education system to prepare students for the future. I mean really, who made the rule that a degree has to be 3 years? Or that a degree from a sandstone university is more valuable than a polytech?

In order to stay ahead of their ‘robotic competition’, students of the future will need to acquire skills and experiences that would be difficult for robots to acquire. What these skills will look like is a matter for another blog.

We would like to know what you think. Will the machines actually take over? Are we headed towards a dystopian world of robotic overlords? Or is it simply too complex to design an AI capable of taking over human mental capabilities?

What is you view on the future of Robots?

 

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