The ro­bots are com­ing, and I’m fine with that

The world is now di­vided into two camps: those who love ro­bots and can’t wait to see more of them, and those who, well, don’t. Which side are you on?

Network Middle East - - // SPECIAL REPORT / ROBOTICS -

The fear of ro­bots tak­ing over the word is deep. Lu­mi­nar­ies such as Elon Musk and the late Stephen Hawk­ing have sounded the alarm bells over in­tel­li­gent ro­bots with the ca­pa­bil­ity to cause un­told harm to their hu­man cre­ators.

The story runs along the lines of the typ­i­cal ro­bot Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion. A ro­bot out­grows the in­tel­li­gence of the sci­en­tists who cre­ated it, who, re­al­iz­ing their mis­take tries to con­tain the cy­borg. The ro­bot, now in­fused with sen­tience, re­fuses to bear wit­ness to its own de­struc­tion and em­barks on a global cam­paign of ter­ror. In­fe­rior hu­mans stand no chance.

While Hol­ly­wood has done its part to in­stil fear in hu­mans, pro­po­nents see a much more sym­bi­otic and mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial co-ex­is­tence be­tween man and ma­chine.

Go to any es­tab­lish­ment that has em­ployed ro­bots and see how these com­put­ers are im­prov­ing the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. We have high­lighted sev­eral of these ap­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing an LG ro­bot that has been de­ployed at In­cheon Air­port in South Korea since last year. This help­ful An­droid is ca­pa­ble of as­sist­ing trav­ellers, in­clud­ing guid­ing lost and late cus­tomers to their gates.

Mush closer to home, Dubai Po­lice has its own Robo­cop in its ranks that among other things, can help po­lice of­fi­cers iden­tify and catch of­fend­ers through fa­cial recog­ni­tion. The ro­bot is also fit­ted with a built-in tablet which al­lows peo­ple to com­plete smart po­lice ser­vices.

What re­ally wor­ries the cyn­ics is the im­mi­nent blend­ing of ro­bot­ics and AI. For now, ro­bots are ‘barely lit­er­ate’, only com­plet­ing rather sim­ple tasks pro­grammed into them. Soon enough, these an­droids will be able to do much more first through ma­chine learn­ing where they learn from their en­vi­ron­ment and adapt ac­cord­ingly.

Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is the im­pact of in­tel­li­gent ro­bots on jobs. There’s wide­spread fear that mil­lions of jobs are at stake world­wide as ma­chines take over jobs now un­der the purview of hu­mans.

We have quoted the chief econ­o­mist of the Bank of Eng­land, Andy Hal­dane, who re­cently warned of mass un­em­ploy­ment as a re­sult of an im­mi­nent ro­bot-driven fourth in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion.

This de­vel­op­ment will be at least as bad as the first in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion which led to mass em­ploy­ment across Europe and led to so­cial up­heaval. Worse, Hal­dane warns, there will be no jobs to re­place those lost to ma­chines lead­ing to long-term un­em­ploy­ment on a large scale, as peo­ple be­come ‘tech­no­log­i­cally un­em­ployed’. That doesn’t make for a very com­fort­able read­ing.

On the other side of the de­bate are en­thu­si­asts who are con­vinced AI and ro­bots will push hu­mans to new heights of achieve­ment by com­ple­ment­ing, not re­plac­ing, hu­man tasks. The most pop­u­lar ar­gu­ment is that ma­chines can take over the me­nial and repet­i­tive tasks and re­lease hu­mans to more creative and hope­fully re­ward­ing tasks.

We have al­ready seen this in ac­tion, via drones, which have taken over tasks such as ae­rial sur­veil­lance and pho­tog­ra­phy with re­mark­able re­sults. No need for hu­mans to fly over po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous con­struc­tion zones, oil rigs and elec­tric power in­stal­la­tions. Most drones still re­quire a hu­man to op­er­ate, but the new­est kids on the UAV block have a ‘set it and for­get it’ fea­ture. Their hu­man own­ers will be left with the more com­plex anal­y­sis tasks. And this is a great ex­am­ple of what au­toma­tion can do.

It’s still early days for ro­bot­ics, de­spite all the ex­cite­ment around the Dubai Robo­cop for in­stance. Some of what’s to come is scary for sure. Mil­i­taries all over the world are ex­per­i­ment­ing with ro­bot sol­diers. They are right now en­gaged in de­cid­edly wor­thy tasks of sniff­ing out road­side bombs and clear­ing land­mines. Soon, how­ever, they will be armed, which could lead to wars of even greater cat­a­strophic out­comes. Hence the rise of eth­i­cal AI move­ment to fore­stall mis­use of the tech­nol­ogy.

Over­all, the great con­sen­sus is that ro­bot­ics and AI will do hu­man­ity a lot of good. I, for one, wel­come our new An­droid over­lords.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.