MARKETING MANAGER AT ACCENTURE – FOUNDER AT THE SPARKSIDE, EX FOUNDER AT THEQ CAMERA EX ADMAN, MILLENNIAL.
January 2017 — written in Dublin, Ireland.
Disclaimer: I originally wrote this article for 3D printing robotics company "Love & Robots". As the topic is more relevant today than ever I thought I would post it again on my blog as a "director's cut" version.
2016 was a particularly interesting year. A surprisingly large number of celebrities passed away, many politics took an unexpected turn and technology made great progress in the background. I say "in the background" because most consumer tech didn't really impress the audience; dongles and adaptors everywhere, exploding phones and drones literally falling off the sky... ouch.
What I mean is Artificial Intelligence and business-oriented innovation ( B2B for you acronym fans out there ) that brought us news including self-driving cars predicting accidents and Mark Zuckerberg who created his own AI shooting t-shirts at the sound of Morgan Freeman's voice.
On the flip side, some less exciting news in the workforce market; Foxconn replaced '60,000 factory workers with robots and Japanese Life Insurance firm, Fukoku Mutual, is reportedly replacing 34 workers with Artificial Intelligence starting January 2017.
At this point you’ve asked yourself this question at least once: are robots going to take our jobs? Watch our favourite TV series? Eat our crisps?
British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking spoke out on the matter underlining how computers will take over humans with Artificial Intelligence in the next 100 years. Regardless of the fact that most of us won’t be there in hundred years, it still is an interesting display of a society on its early steps towards this technological evolution. The real question here lies on whether this is good news or terrible news that depicts a movie-like scenario painted with “Robots go home” protest signs
It really depends on what your definition of a robot is. Most people think of robots as anthropomorphic or humanoid creatures. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: “a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer.” This could include your smartphone, your self-driving car, or any smart household device.
But this isn't cars, iPhones or microwaves we’re fussing about. What Stephen Hawking is telling us through his robotic voice machine is that Artificial Intelligence is no longer simply science-fiction. Robots are now able to make decisions, understand complex tasks and do a lot more work. Yes, work. Your work? Probably.
Now, before we throw our Nest thermostats out of the window in a Luddite panic, we need to take a step back and look at the job landscape on a completely different timeframe: jobs like IT engineers, call centre specialists and auto repairs didn’t even exist 50 years ago, not to mention the ones that almost didn't exist 5 years ago: social media managers, data scientists, uber drivers and app developers.
Jobs change, the type of work we do changes and how we do it changes too. If printers are becoming 3D printers, farmers will become urban agriculturalists, architects will become augmented reality architects and so on. We can easily keep daydreaming about lightsaber instructors and other potential jobs of the future, but the point is: human wants and needs are ever changing and infinite, meaning that there will always be new work to do. What really changes are the skills, education and knowledge of the workers.
"There is no future in any job. The future lies in the person who holds the job.” - George W. Crane
But there’s more! Regardless of how intelligent these robots might become, something that goes beyond intelligence, that has no formula or logic, is key to our ( people ) success. Creativity, ideas and those sparks of genius that really make a difference are truly what makes us human: it is the mix of intelligence and creativity, of brains and heart that robots will never truly be able to achieve.
The point is, Artificial Intelligence and robots are only bound to stay and they will take our current jobs as much as the loom took all textile manufacturing jobs during the industrial revolution in the 18th century. The real difference is the speed with which this change is about to happen. Social media, Internet and globalisation are facilitating change rapidly and the risk of getting left behind without even realising it, is increasing. I once read an interesting quote that stuck in my head :
"The future of workforce will see two type of people; the ones telling machines what to do, and the ones being told by machines what to do".
Dig a little deeper ( and a little more seriously ) with these easy-read easy-watch resources:
TED Talk with Andrew McAfee – Are droids taking our jobs?
How To Keep Your Job When Robots Take Over – Fortune.com
Humans Need Not Apply – Short film by CGP Grey
If Robots Take Our Jobs, What Will Be Left for Humans to Do? – Video by Wired
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