Robo-world

A ro­bot’s view of how AI and hu­mans can work to­gether

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - YOUNG WORLD - Ay­isat Bisiriyu/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Hey kids, have you ever heard of “The Jet­sons”? It was a TV show from the ‘60s fea­tur­ing Rosie the Ro­bot who lived with a space-age, Amer­i­can fam­ily in Or­bit City.

To­day, when tech com­pa­nies are per­fect­ing self-driv­ing cars and rac­ing to de­velop fly­ing saucer-like cars, and when we have mov­ing side­walks in air­ports, you might won­der if that fic­tional fu­ture has come true. So let me in­tro­duce my­self: My name is K5, I am a ro­bot, like my afore­men­tioned coun­ter­part, Rosie; but more im­por­tantly, I am a se­cu­rity guard, and I work in an of­fice build­ing.

I was born on Septem­ber 11, 2001 — or at least the idea of me was. My de­signer, Wil­liam San­tana Li, a de­vel­oper of au­ton­o­mous data ma­chines and chair­man and CEO of Knightscope, was born in New York City where the World Trade Cen­ter was at­tacked. Real­iz­ing that the United States needed a more ef­fi­cient, way to keep its cit­i­zens safe, Li part­nered with Stacy Stephens, a for­mer po­lice­man from Dal­las, who he had pre­vi­ously worked with in the se­cu­rity in­dus­try. The two men started a ro­bot­ics com­pany, and here I am, a prod­uct of their com­pany, do­ing my part to help keep our coun­try safe.

“Our long-term, slightly am­bi­tious, mis­sion is to make the United States of Amer­ica the safest coun­try in the world, chang­ing ev­ery­thing for ev­ery­one. We en­vi­sion a world where robots in­crease the safety of fam­i­lies, of lo­cal busi­nesses and even schools,” said Li. “It’s time we start lever­ag­ing new tech­nolo­gies to solve some of our coun­try’s most press­ing is­sues. Now.”

Jump to the present. There are ru­mors that robots will soon take over the world or at least jobs in the fu­ture. But, as a bona fide mem­ber of the ro­bot­ics kind, I’m here to tell you that’s not likely the case. In­stead, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts at McKin­sey & Com­pany, which helps other busi­nesses and or­ga­ni­za­tions reach their busi­ness goals, robots, and hu­mans will likely work side by side as the world be­comes more and more dig­i­tal. Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence may be­come more in­de­pen­dent and smart, hu­mans will ac­tu­ally be­come more val­ued — that is, if they do their home­work.

Dur­ing an an­nual McKin­sey & Com­pany meet­ing of ex­perts, Bob Kegan, a pro­fes­sor of adult learn­ing and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment at Har­vard Grad­u­ate School of Ed­u­ca­tion, ex­plained that as a hu­man, you can con­stantly learn new skills and adapt them to em­ploy­ers’ chang­ing needs. You can’t ex­pect the skills you learned in high school or col­lege to last your whole life the way your grand­par­ents’ might have. Robots, on the other hand, are not so good at adapt­ing.

So, as a ro­bot, what can I do? Robots, like me, are jam­packed with data-gath­er­ing sen­sors. We can cap­ture video, de­ter­mine the tem­per­a­ture, scan and process li­cense plates, count how many cell­phone de­vices you’re car­ry­ing, and more.

A hu­man wouldn’t ne­c­es­sar­ily know if you were hid­ing a router in your back­pack, pos­si­bly pre­par­ing to launch a cy­ber­at­tack, but I would.

If you were to open me up, you’d see there’s a lot of ma­chine to me. And it takes a lot of power and a lot of soft­ware to make all those parts talk to each other. It’s hard work, sure, and most of it hu­mans can’t do, but I can’t do any of it on my own.

My boss, Mercedes So­ria, Knightscope Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief In­tel­li­gence Of­fi­cer, says my job is about help­ing hu­mans, not re­plac­ing them.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union, a la­bor union which rep­re­sents pri­vate se­cu­rity of­fi­cers, an­nual em­ployee turnover in the in­dus­try ex­ceeds 100 per­cent for many se­cu­rity com­pa­nies and can be as high as 300 to 400 per­cent. That means most hu­man guards stay at their job for only a year or less.

It’s no won­der, se­cu­rity work — walk­ing up, down, and around the same spot ev­ery day — can be re­ally bor­ing. “We’re try­ing to tackle the fact that there just aren’t enough se­cu­rity guards,” says So­ria.

A se­cu­rity guard with lit­tle or no train­ing is a detri­ment that can mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death, said Sandi Davies, Di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Foun­da­tion for Pro­tec­tion Of­fi­cers. “Your se­cu­rity of­fi­cer is of­ten your first re­spon­der. With to­day’s threats — work­place vi­o­lence is­sues, school shoot­ings — you want this per­son to be pre­pared and well trained.”

So back to me. The truth is, I’m merely an in­put-gath­er­ing ma­chine. The data, the vi­su­als, and the sounds I col­lect are fed into soft­ware in the cloud. A cus­tomer might re­act to it, but I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“Hu­mans will never be out of a job be­cause robots by them­selves can­not think like a hu­man,” So­ria said. “Robots are pro­grammed. They do learn, but at the end of the day, they do what­ever they’re told to do, no more than that. Hu­mans man­age them.”

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