In the previous installment of this two-part series I discussed the amazing transformation and evolution made possible by automation and technology advancements of the 20th century. Today’s technology transformations such as robotics, artificial intelligence, biotechnologies, and the Internet-of-Things will have a great impact on society, disrupting every industry and improving many aspects of our personal and work lives. They also create problems for governments around the world that must now figure out how to regulate this new environment and respond to socio-economic concerns such as displacement of workers by automation, or inequality.
Of all big tech companies using AI to enhance their products or services, Amazon is clearly leading the pack with home automation products like Alexa, its version of a personal assistant. Facebook has recently sunset “M,” which hoped to take current personal assistants to the next level where the trained AI machine would have had the same knowledge as the user and do more things than regurgitating various scenarios scripted by app developers. However, the race to lead in AI as a service is on.
While excitement is high about the possibility of self-driving cars becoming part of our daily lives, challenges remain. There are still questions regarding the safety of self-driving cars and it is not known if consumers are ready to give up control and adopt this new life style. It is not clear whether state governments will allow self-driving cars and what the guidelines for that would be. A AAA Study reports that consumers are not ready to embrace self-driving cars. More than 6 in 10 consumers “would be afraid to ride in a fully autonomous vehicle.” Programs like Uber’s “test-riding” in a self-driving car could ease consumers’ fears and build excitement and trust in this emerging market.
Automated home drone delivery certainly keeps Amazon customers and the public excited about the possibility for AI as a service and Google’s AI open source object recognition technology is already used by the US Department of Defense (DoD) in their drone program. As recently reported by Bloomberg Technology, the DoD pilot project involving machine learning and computer vision technology sparked an interesting debate on whether a technology designed for non-offensive uses should ever be used for military purposes and warfare.
The international race to lead in AI could soon become more than a war on words. Last year, Elon Musk tweeted: “[…] Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely [the] cause of WW3 imo,” in response to a tweet from The Verge quoting a statement from Putin’s speech to students, (as reported by RT): “[AI] comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
Where Are We Headed and How to Survive in the Age of AI and Robotics?
One thing is certain. There’s more change ahead. Job markets around the world will continue to change due to emerging technologies and demographic changes. So what can public and private organizations do to help?
Continuing education and training to give the workforce the skills they need to survive in the age of automation are critical. Government subsidies for training courses or tuition are solutions worth exploring. There are other government initiatives worth considering, such as Singapore’s Skill-Future Initiative described in this Forbes article, which requires employers to plan ahead for anticipated changes in their industry and the skills that will be needed.
Results from Route Fifty’s recent 2018 Management Survey indicate that while two-thirds of state and local respondents recognize the transformative impact new technologies are having on their organization, they are not worried that their jobs are going to be replaced by technology.
Technology will continue to reshape our personal lives and the workforce, creating new jobs and opportunities that may not have existed decades ago. According to a Pew Survey conducted in May 2017, some workers have already directly experienced negative effects of automation, with 6% of US adults reporting having been displaced, or wages/work hours reduced. Generally, 72% of the American public seems to be “worried about a future where robots and computers can do many human jobs.”
Meanwhile, we can all appreciate shorter workweeks compared to the early 1900s, a higher quality of life, higher productivity levels and home improvements which would not have been possible without automation and emerging technologies. We can also all be certain that more change is ahead, but the robots are not coming for our jobs, or to take over our world – at least for now!