How a lawn­mower cre­ated your job

If you’re wor­ried about AI, drones or other emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy mak­ing your job ob­so­lete, you can learn from the in­ven­tion of the lawn­mower

Campaign UK - - PROMOTION - DINO BURBIDGE Di­rec­tor of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, WCRS @di­no­zoiks

We’ve all cringed at those old sci-fi movies that start with a bold cap­tion such as: “Earth 2050.” We seem to have sur­vived “Judg­ment Day” on 21 April 2011, when Skynet was sup­posed to have be­come self-aware and en­slaved of the hu­man race. I’m fairly sure I didn’t seen any­thing on Twit­ter on 21 Oc­to­ber 2015 about a Delorean ap­pear­ing from 1985. And given that the Tyrell Cor­po­ra­tion hasn’t even got a Kick­starter cam­paign to­gether to make Repli­cants, the chances of the gover­nor of Los An­ge­les hav­ing to hire Blade Run­ners to track them down 18 months from now are a lit­tle slim.

In short, we’re re­ally crap at pre­dict­ing the fu­ture. Then some­thing hap­pened the other night. A friend pinged me one of those “Dude, this is so you!” mes­sages. It was the fi­nals of the Drone Rac­ing League world series and it was right here in Lon­don, only a few min­utes’ walk from my back door.

“I’ll drive us there,” my mate Kaz an­nounced.

“But it’s only a five-minute walk,” I said. “Yeah, trust me, I’ll drive us.”

Turned out Kaz has the new Tesla Model X and knew this was ex­actly how one should turn up at the Drone Rac­ing League fi­nals. The Back to the Fu­ture ref­er­ence when en­ter­ing a Model X via the need­lessly the­atri­cal gull-wing doors wasn’t lost on me. Some gob­s­macked passer-by took a pic­ture on their phone. I would have done the same.

To be hon­est, I wasn’t ex­pect­ing much from the event. I’ve seen drone-rac­ing on Youtube. It was like watch­ing a bunch of tiny, su­per-fast wasps with LED lights on. But, after the fi­nal heat of the night, I was al­ready plan­ning the ex­cuses to my wife for need­ing an FPV – or first-per­son-per­spec­tive – drone “for work”.

For the unini­ti­ated, here’s how it works. Six “pi­lots” sit in a brightly lit area wear­ing gog­gles that al­low them to see what their drones see. The course is laid out over roughly 200 me­tres and con­sists of hoops and gates that must be passed though in the right or­der. There are hor­i­zon­tal gates close to the ground as well as sus­pended gates at crazy an­gles that are nav­i­gated ver­ti­cally. The win­ner is the first to slam into a spe­cial tent with a net in it. It’s a 3D Grand Na­tional, with LED wasps.

Scan­ning around the room, it was pretty wellat­tended. Some things stood out, though. First, they weren’t the nerdy 14-year-olds I’d ex­pected – they seemed re­ally quite nor­mal. Some had clearly come from their city jobs to be here. It felt like the crowd you get at a For­mula One race rather than Comic Con. The other thing was that many were sport­ing the same FPV gog­gles as the pi­lots. It turns out you can tune into which­ever drone you like as it’s rac­ing and see what the pilot sees. Kinda cool.

There were some big lo­gos on show. Ama­zon Prime seems to have picked up the main spon­sor tab. It clearly knows its au­di­ence as there was Grand Tour brand­ing ev­ery­where. The com­men­ta­tors were at pains to re­peat “No live film­ing al­lowed”, pre­sum­ably as Sky held the broad­cast rights. And should you want to put down a fiver to pre­dict the win­ner, Bet­fair was in at­ten­dance too. Some very in­flu­en­tial busi­ness brains in some very big com­pa­nies had de­cided there was some­thing in this. The event seemed to have enough build­ing blocks to, well, build on.

There’s a name for this: the Bud­ding ef­fect. Ed­win Bud­ding in­vented the lawn­mower (bear with me on this one). Well-cut grass meant games such as base­ball, ten­nis, foot­ball and golf and a num­ber of pas­times could pro­lif­er­ate. This then led to a grow­ing need for sta­di­ums, sports pro­fes­sion­als, coaches, phys­ios and ev­ery­thing in-be­tween. It also led to mer­chan­dis­ing, spon­sor­ship, TV rights, com­men­ta­tors, live TV broad­casts and new bet­ting plat­forms. You get the pic­ture.

I’m sure the guy who used to sup­ply the grasseat­ing goats hated Bud­ding but, in the wider view, a seem­ingly un­re­lated in­ven­tion spawned en­tire in­dus­tries. Peo­ple re­trained for these new jobs overnight and pros­pered.

Now swap lawn­mow­ers for ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, drone-rac­ing, ro­bots, au­ton­o­mous cars or any other in­ven­tions that pop up ev­ery week in the “[in­sert new thing] will steal your job” head­lines, and you soon re­alise we’ve been here be­fore – many times. We won’t lose our jobs; we’ll just do the new ones.

To cir­cle back to my movie theme: may

I throw one more into the mix for its pure irony? A cheesy 1992 apoc­a­lyp­tic sci-fi movie in which vir­tual re­al­ity tries

(but ul­ti­mately fails) to con­sume mankind… what was its name?

The Lawn­mower Man.

“A seem­ingly un­re­lated in­ven­tion spawned en­tire in­dus­tries. Peo­ple re­trained for these new jobs overnight and pros­pered”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.