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Robots and AI are already taking over our jobs

April 2, 2019

Faisal Athar

If you’ve watched the web series ‘Ready for Retail Robots?’ on BBC Click, then you will already know about the use of AI and Machine Learning in the retail industry. Take for instance Amazon who uses AI robots to automatically arrange items ordered to other machines for them to package and delivered. The room was filled with automated robots carrying items and moving them around within the room in accurate precision. Because the room was only filled with robots and items, humans are rarely in the room, thus if a person came in the room, they would have to wear a particular vest with sensors for the robots to detect the presence of a human to avoid them and reroute their movement.

A similar approach has been used in Walmart malls where they have automated cleaning vehicles to clean the floors all on their own, and avoiding people walking around by the use of cameras, sensors, and lasers. There are also robots that walk around the store isles to check if the stocks are nearly empty, if the price tags are wrong and stuff like that. There’s technology that enables consumers to just pick up items from the isles and just walk out without physically having to use your cash to buy stuff, you just scan an app or a QR code or something and it would automatically detect anything and everything within your store basket or trolley.

All these technological wonders are really a vision to the future of automated ease. Thus, comes the question of, if all of these are automated by robots and Ai and stuff, where does the humans come in? Will there be any jobs left for us humans? ‘They took our jobs’ will be screamed by the unions and workers who have thrived being a cashier or delivery guys all their lives. It’s basically their lives for all these times, and up comes these metal boxes, all came in with their precision analysis and heavy lifting, replacing the people who have been doing the same stuff all their lives, without the human errors and tiredness and emotional distractions.

But does it really? Does it really replace humans in all these aspects? Will humans be out of jobs by the next 10 years and be replaced with AI and robots?

The BBC Click team asked a similar question to Steve Carlin, the CSO of Softbank Robotics America, a company that creates robots and services that engage people through conversation and a touch screen. Steve answered ‘No’, Robots will not replace humans as workers, but rather supplement them. They will assist to ease workloads so that the humans can focus more on other sides of their jobs instead of distracted with the menial tasks that can be automated. It is used for the workplaces that have 100 workers that are currently doing things that actually requires 200 people to finish. It is used to ease work forces and not replace them. This was the gist of his answer.

This is merely a taste of what AI can do. People need to understand that AI is not limited to merely automation of robots and machines, but are open to a much broader scope of potential. Some companies are actually using AI for the benefit of mankind. Take Rainforest Connection who are using AI as a real time monitoring system to stop illegal deforestation, stop animal poaching, and creating a searchable Audio Ark of rainforest sounds and eco-data. Their RFCx system has helped their partners allocate limited manpower to target key times and days each month where poaching activities were statistically very high, among other things.

A team of researchers from Germany, the United States and France taught an AI system to help doctors detect skin cancer faster and more efficient. The system helps dermatologist to make better decisions on their diagnostics by providing a more accurate and sensitive data set. Think of how many misdiagnosis were performed because of lack of accurate data or even data that was given quickly given the sense of urgency required at the time.

AI is more than mere control. AI is efficient and safe automation to save limited manpower and provide a safer work environment. AI is providing real time data to help the environment and crime management. AI is providing accurate data to save lives. AI is a tool. And that tool is being used for the good for the betterment of mankind.

So it is true, that AI doesn’t replace, rather that AI supplements. Some jobs will be inevitably be replaced by machines and AI, that is still true. But that merely leaves us room to explore other forms and aspects of work. A higher level of process that enables the use AI and machines to further our scope of work.

We need to be ready when all our work will be supplemented with AI assistance in the form of machines or data. We need to go with the times and adapt to new technologies and workflows.

There are a few things one can do to not be left behind in an ever moving, ever adapting work environment. One can learn new knowledge to understand how new types of applications and machines work, and use these new techs to our benefit. One can find courses online or invest in experimental technology to test the water of the potentials that are there.

Or one can quicken the process and engage professional help in tech companies who are already working on these tech centric future. Like the ones mentioned above, there are companies who are building new hardware with AI and machine learning embedded in them to be of use for the industry and even consumers. There are companies who are working on software and applications that are actively finding new ways to utilize AI for the betterment of the society.

The industry is actually looking a lot brighter when you know the potential that new technologies can provide us. There’s Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Virtual, Augmented, Mixed, or even Extended Reality, Blockchain, Analytics, and a lot more new technology that people are starting to use in their everyday lives, be it at work or even at home.

Will you join this bright future and be apart of the movement, or will you simply move aside and let these people who adapted to the future carve out a revolution?