In the early 20th century, Robotics and artificial intelligence were the visions of science fiction writers and moviemakers. Now, as we begin the third decade of the 21st century, much of what seemed so far fetched back in the day, are common everyday items today. Even ten years ago, who would have thought that we would be answering a phone call by talking into our wristwatch just like the comic strip character Dick Tracy did for the first time on January 13, 1946.
But, with all of this new and exciting technology, what effect will it have on mankind?
On the positive side, robotics and machine learning have improved productivity and enhanced the economies of many nations. Artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced into finance, transportation, defense, and energy management. The internet of things (IoT) is facilitated by high-speed networks and remote sensors to connect people and businesses. In all of this, there is a possibility of a new era that could improve many people’s lives.
It is estimated that the widespread adoption of AI can contribute $15.7 trillion to the world economy over the next decade as it would vastly increase productivity and spur shoppers to spend more.
However, amid these possible benefits, there is also a widespread fear that robots and AI will take jobs and throw millions of people into poverty. A Pew Research Center study asked 1,896 experts about the impact of emerging technologies and found that half of these experts (48 percent) envision a future in which robots and digital agents will have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers. Many expressed concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of effectively unemployable people, and breakdowns in the social order.
Meanwhile, Oxford University researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne studied 702 occupational groupings and found that “47 percent of U.S. workers have a high probability of seeing their jobs automated over the next 20 years.”
From self-driving vehicles and semi-autonomous robots to intelligent algorithms and predictive analytic tools, machines are increasingly capable of performing a wide range of jobs that have long been human domains.
Case in point, a walk through the Sub-Zero Wolf Appliance Company manufacturing facility will reveal few production personnel on the floor. The entire manufacturing process, from fabrication to QC testing, is handled by sophisticated robotics. Every finished product is connected to electricity and/or gas (as appropriate for the product) and 100% function tested using robots.
Factory production has evolved from doing the labor to programming the machines that do the work robotically. That means, repetitive jobs such as parts assembly become faster, more precise, and the quality becomes more consistent.
As a result, modern factory workers will need the education and training necessary to program the robots for the task at hand, as well as change out parts or make repairs to keep the assembly lines moving. The good news is that many assembly line workers have the skills to be retrained to operate today’s modern robotic manufacturing equipment. There are grants available for both employers and employees.
But factory workers are not the only workers at risk of losing their jobs. In 2013, technologists Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne published research that tried to predict the kinds of jobs technology is likely to replace in the next few decades. Middle-skilled workers, such as tax accountants, telemarketers, and freight agents, were deemed most likely to be replaced by robots in the next few years. Skilled workers such as scientists, healthcare professionals, leaders, entrepreneurs, writers, and artists were deemed the most secure. The explanation is simple; humans are the most productive at professions that require them to regularly interact with other humans, while machines supersede them at such things as following patterns and executing routine work.
The pace of artificial intelligence (AI) development is staggering— If you ever ask Siri, Google Now, or Cortana a question, you’re using AI. Even getting online customer support or browsing through your Netflix recommendations is considered an interaction with AI. Google estimates robots will reach levels of human intelligence by 2029, and IT research firm Gartner predicts that by 2025, one-third of jobs will be replaced by robots and smart machines. Check out this BBC video about food preparation robots that will change the restaurant industry..
The vital question for any business to think about is, how do I keep up with the latest in robotic and Artificial Intelligence technology while remaining true to their employees and customers. The mindset today is man versus machine, but what visionaries see as the future is that man and machine working together can be better than humans.
At INNOVA Technologies, our structural engineers and designers have learned to work with computer programs that utilize AI, as well as use AI to develop our own software to speed up the design process, quickly work out complicated scenarios, and provide our clients with some of the most visionary and technical designs possible.