When did this happen? How could it have happened without Us Knowing? What happens Now? These are some of the questions people are beginning to ask themselves and their neighbors. Good questions to be sure but what are the answers? Not many can say for sure.
How much do you know about A-I? How much do you want to know about A-I?
Computers are definitely getting smarter more quickly. That’s the first point. More industrialized nations are relying on robots to do the work that others (humans) either can’t do or won’t do. The use of robots is gaining momentum in the industrial world and not just in North America. Don’t look now but we are headed for a global economy and we are not very well prepared for it at least on this side of the pond.
We need to consider the impact that A-I is having on our standard of living-today. The decisions you make now will have a life-long impact not only on the quality of your lives but more importantly on the career choices that your children make in the next year. The jobs that are top notch no brainers will be gone by the time your kids get to what we currently know as university. In essence, you could be paying for an education that will not prepare your kids for the reality of a new dynamic workplace. That degree could easily be rendered useless.
Why robotics/why now?
- robots work 24/7. There is no downtime and they don’t take vacations either so we are talking about providing continuous, consistent high-quality production with minimal overhead.
- they don’t get a benefits package or pension plan.
- they require very little supervision and allow the company using them to employ a minimum of staff
- they do the dangerous work that often requires a specialized human workforce.
- they can do the ‘heavy’ lifting and repetitive jobs all day long.
- robots are able to work with near perfect accuracy thereby reducing damaged or flawed products.
- Robots will do the tedious work that eventually burns other workers out, for instance, searching for specific data in documents.
- Robotic office assistants are already answering phones and recording particular information like dates and appointments. They can be programmed to recognize specific people’s voices and respond to them.
But there are drawbacks as well and they are equally important to consider. Such as:
- robots will only produce what they have been programmed to produce. As of yet they still haven’t developed a conscience or the ability to make independent decisions. That day is not far off but we are not there yet.
- because of the large cost saving per unit produced and 24/7 production businesses make larger profits using fewer hours which translates into lost jobs as well as higher profits. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Social programs will be expected to make up the difference putting more strain on government agencies to provide services.
- robots and robotic equipment are still very costly. Not all businesses will be able to afford to do business at the same level. This will put more stress on those businesses that will need to find other ways of competing. Unfortunately, there are few ways of cutting costs to that magnitude which means that there will be less competition and more monopolies. This will cause economic stratification–two or three levels of medical care for instance. How will the average family afford to educate their children?
- the cost of maintaining robots is more than the actual cost of the robots. If a company isn’t financially strong enough to absorb or survive any downturn in the economy bankruptcies are bound to rise. Robots provide no guarantee that large sums of money will start rolling into the company account. Remember that this will become a global marketplace where competition will become that much more intense.
- There will still be a need to educate and train a support staff of humans to deal with issues that do arise. Training a staff to work at this level is a very costly proposition.
- As I mentioned above robots will only do what they have been programmed to do. Even if the action is dangerous or something goes wrong they will continue to do the work even though it may be destructive in some way because that is what they have been programmed to do. Human workers around them could be at risk. Robots cannot automatically override what has been programmed.
- the one unknown by-product of having a predominantly mechanized staff is how it will affect the human staff creatively and emotionally. How will the accelerated development of technology affect the creativity and innovation of the trained staff? Will they be anxious to continue to develop new technology knowing that they may well ‘create’ themselves out of a job? Humans will not give up what they perceive to be a threat to their own security. How will this play out?
These are important questions that need to be discussed by unions, business leaders, workers, educational institutions, banks and other interested participants. These meetings need to begin happening right away. We cannot slow down tech development but we can plan for what we likely know is coming and make provisions for all those to be affected so that we can ALL survive.
Anyways, that’s how I see it.
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All the best, Jim
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