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AI and the Future of Work

Ms Shanlynn Lee, APARA

Ms Shanlynn Lee (President of APARA – Asia Pacific Assisted Robotics Association)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become mainstream, and has started to impact the way we work, live and play. AI is beginning to introduce a truly ubiquitous and meaningful way of living.

The notion that machines and devices have some elements of “intelligence” is not new, and these devices already co-exist with us in various forms such as home appliances like the fuzzy logic washing machine which knows to estimate the washing time and water level required.

Hollywood movies have extended and shared numerous imaginations of how an increasing amount of intelligence can lead to much more sophisticated machines.

The advent of converging technologies accelerated this ubiquitous reality. The right combination of factors has come together to move AI from concept to an increasingly apparent reality, and somewhat accelerated innovations to create anxiety in our livelihood. The question arises: Will AI machines replace the human manpower?

AI in Robotics is creating a “new workplace and community creature” which is appearing to threaten our jobs, and hence, our well-being. However, this does not have to be the case. The danger does not lie in the increasingly smart machines, but rather the risk of human not heeding the survival instincts to adapt in the ever-changing environment.

The saying goes: “Fire is a good servant, but a terrible master,” and the same goes with the notion on technology. When mankind succumbed to technology, we become slaves to the encapsulated intelligence. In fact, with the arrival of advanced technologies, we must re-invent ourselves to become “Master of Technologies”. The risk lies in the attitude of “Learned Helplessness”.

The psychologists explain that “Learned Helplessness” is a behavior exhibited after repeated unsuccessful tries beyond normal control. After several attempts to accomplish a task using conventional methods which fail to succeed, we resign to the conclusion that it cannot be done. Because of “bombastic terminologies” such as Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Neural Nets and so on, used frequently by the media and the technology vendors, the man in the street inadvertently accepts the overwhelming promise of AI.

Let’s put things in perspective … the intelligent machine is no more than a metal frame powered by electric pulses of two states - “1”s and “0”s. Compared to the human, how much more intelligent can it be? Can it replace the type of work that we do in our daily lives? The intelligence in the machine is no more than procedural algorithms written by the human programmer to execute a repeated set of steps. Machines may perform this function with more precision and speed.

But, that does not make the machines more intelligent than the human mind. Of course, if the human person slackens and denies the right to learn and adapt, the human potential is thus reduced, and slides off beyond the machine intelligent level.

The latest WEF (World Economic Forum) report on The Future of Jobs 2018, says that 75 million jobs will be displaced by AI, Robotics, and Automation, but suggests that 133 million new jobs may be created as organisations shift the balance between human workers and machines: a net gain of 58 million.

Humans build intelligent machines. AI in Robotics is no more than our own creation. AI in Robotics will define our Future of Work. As technology develops at an accelerated pace, cognitive abilities and tasks that we once believe to be reserved for humans are increasingly being carried out by the machines, thus making a significant impact of the work landscape. While the current workforce manages on the transition, will our children be adequately prepared for the Future of Work?

AIBotics 2020 will be held in August 2020 with a 2 Day Conference and Exhibition, plus an additional day of workshops and tutorials. The theme for 2020 is “Augmenting the Human Potential”. This understanding and implementation of AI in Robotics across the wide range of applications aim to bring together the most progressive end-users, first-class speakers, and innovative solution providers.

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