“The world was a better place before modern technology.” This is a laughable statement I hear from my best friend daily, my best friend who was born in the time of Apple iPhones and Instagram. From someone who always has her phone in her back pocket, why has the days before artificial intelligence and decent technology been so romanticised? Gone are the days of horse and carriage travel, switchboard operators and only two TV channels. And here are the days of virtual reality, driverless taxis and Amazon Echoes. So why are people so scared of the future and the technology it’ll bring?
In early 2018, Amazon Go opened. It was a shop in which there was no checkouts or cashiers. Customers would go in, scan their phones, get what they wanted off the shelves and leave. This is what is believed to be the new reality. Where robots are held to a higher level than humans and where they take our jobs and our livelihoods. But who says they will stop there? Facebook had to shut down their artificial intelligence (AI) experiment after two robots started speaking in their own language where only they could understand. Is it going to get to the point where we’ll be discussing robot equality and rights? And if that isn’t bad enough, the line between man and god are becoming blurred as experts are trying to use AI to help us extend our lives and become virtually immortal. This is no longer something we can put down to being new and exciting, but something that if used the wrong way can create dire and lasting consequences.
With movies and TV shows such as Black Mirror, Doctor Who and The Terminator, it’s no surprise that so many people believe that robots are the enemy. According to a BBC report, Robot automation will ‘take 800 million jobs by 2030’. Now cue the panicked screams of how robots and artificial intelligence will take over the world and our free will. Now let’s get back to reality. Let’s remember how artificial intelligence is just this generations brand new and scary piece of technology. Less than 300 years ago, the terrifying new piece of technology – which was going to take over everyone’s jobs – was a simple textile machine. In 1779 a young weaver named Ned Ludd broke into a workshop and smashed up the latest, state-of-the-art textile machines. At the time he was hailed as a hero by fellow workers who feared machines might take away their livelihoods. These new pieces of tech have not been ‘stealing’ jobs for hundreds of years but have in fact made everyday life safer and easier and has done since the wheel was invented. For example during the Industrial Revolution, people were paid to wake clients up for work by knocking on their doors and windows with sticks. There were also aircraft listeners, who would use concrete mirrors to try and detect any enemy airplanes on their way. As well as elevator operators, town criers, film projectionists and pinsetters for bowling alleys. The fact is that throughout history, technology has always created a short-term interruption. But we adapted and thrived as new requirements and jobs appeared. And we will with artificial intelligence.
It is time to stop feeding into the doomsday narrative that artificial intelligence is something to be feared, but instead to embrace the benefits it brings. AI is able to improve the perilous jobs that only the specifically skilled and downright unfortunate can undertake. If a Thai soccer team gets trapped in a cave from a decade from now, a team of robots will be sent through the dangerous waters to rescue the boys, instead of team of divers where one got killed. As well as improving current jobs, artificial intelligence is set to create 58 million jobs by 2022. Currently, there are 90″,000 vacancies in social care and 24″,000 in nursing. In response to this, AI is already being tested and making promising advancements to the NHS. One study that involved orthopaedic patients found that AI-assisted robotic procedure resulted in five times fewer complications compared to surgeons operating alone. Via artificial intelligence, robots will also be able to use data from past operations to inform new surgical techniques. As well as transforming the social sector, AI can transform people’s everyday life. It also found that the average British worker works for 34 hours and 26 minutes a week. Robotic process automation (RPA) can change that. RPA can take on more than a third of worker’s time-consuming work. RPA can do the endlessly tedious work of scheduling, distributing and organising. This allows employees to be able to spend more time doing the work they enjoy, providing a more fulfilling life in the process.
Humanity has come a long way since the discovery of fire. In the last 100 years alone, technology has progressed at an unprecedented speed. 50 years after mankind first set foot on our moon, we have since discovered over 1200 new planets due to the technology that is supposedly going to steal all our jobs. This black magic that threatens us all, is allowing us to try and stop climate change by analysing weather patterns and data from NASA images taken out of space. Without this brand-new technology how do you expect us to move forward and try and save our planet? A popular AI invention is drones. They have helped distribute medical supplies and plant large number of trees in destroyed forests. A 2014 study believes that there are 5.25 trillion particles of plastic floating in the ocean. To try and tackle this, a project is in place for AI drones to fly above coastlines and areas of the sea to identify the areas with the most plastic waste so people can focus their clean-up efforts to the most affected places. It is incredible how far we have come in such a short amount of time. The fact that we are able to use artificial intelligence, which is mostly code and some mathematics, to solve some of the world’s biggest issues proves why we must continue down the route of AI and embrace every opportunity it gives us. As 50 years ago with no artificial intelligence, mankind was able to walk on the moon. Who knows where we’ll be exploring in 50 years’ time with the use of AI?
Artificial intelligence and RPA will continue to change the workforce and our everyday lives for the rest of history, whether you like it or not. So far it has already begun to change the world, and we are only at the beginning of what it will be able to achieve, and it shows no signs of it slowing down. Not only is it taking on the massive feat of saving the planet and our oceans, it has the power to give people more happiness and spare time in their lives – which no other technology has ever managed to do before.