This video could change your mind on the robotics revolution: the responses

Here's how our experts replied to questions about this viral video on robotics.

We asked two experts to watch CPG Grey's video and answer two questions. You can read the original story here, but here's what they had to say.  

Denny Oetomo, vice-president of the Australian Robotics and Automation Association and senior lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of Melbourne

Has the video changed your view on the rise of automation?

No. 

The video is mostly accurate in the presentation of the facts, but flawed in its argument. It uses historical trend as its example to argue both ways to suit the author's convenience.

It uses the argument that history demonstrated that machines will replace jobs (such as the example of horses, whose jobs were replaced by automobiles). Then, when faced with the fact that human society has always dealt and adopted well with the maturation of new technologies throughout history, the video turned around and said 'but it will be different this time', because it has 'artificial intelligence'.

The fact is that no one will know how the future will turn out. New events spring up each day, throwing curve balls at all our best predictions and forward extrapolation. The fact is that technology will get adopted only when it is economically justifiable to do so. It will replace human when it makes sense to do so.

The video therefore assumes that many factors remain constant while this new technology (in this case, automation) rises and changes the dynamics of human society. This will not be the case as human society will always adapt to changes. It is absurd to imagine that the world will stand by as a significant proportion of mankind goes unemployed without reacting. First world nations, which constitute the major push of automation, will not be able to sustain their economies by investing into technologies that causes a quarter of their workforce to go unemployed. 

The video highlighted a problem but did not provide solution. Is there a solution?

Firstly, the video highlights a trend. Whether or not it will become a problem is yet to be decided. At this point in time, none of the prediction has come true. Furthermore, the prediction in this video is based on the extrapolation of the current trend given all other factors remain the same, i.e. by assuming that human society does not react to new changes. The video has no far not denied that the technologies have brought positive effects on our quality of life.

Morris Miselowski, business futurist

(Miselowski replied to both questions in one response.)

It’s an age old debate and technology and automation have always been predicted to do away with work -- in the '70s and '80s populist predictions had us headed to three-day work weeks, paperless office and hover boards.

Much of the video paints a picture of technology replacing jobs and there’s an estimate I’ve heard that by 2030 we will have shed two billion jobs.

To compound this we will add three billion people to our planet over the next 35 years that all deserve to be educated, housed, fed, employed and have quality of life.

There will be a huge displacement of jobs as we move to replace routine jobs with technology and bots, this is inevitable.

But the conversation of the new jobs that are going to be created, and new industries gets little air time.

Many of the jobs that we are going to lose have only been created in the last 100 years, why can’t we do this again and again and again, because through the millenniums that’s exactly what we’ve done.

Ten years ago hardly anyone worked in, or made, any real money in the digital and social media space and now there’s hardly a job that doesn’t contain tasks that are influenced by it, let alone the millions of jobs created within it.

I routinely posit that 60 per cent of the tasks we’ll be doing in 10 years haven’t yet been thought of.

The role and nature of work will change and our interplay with technology will evolve.

My theory on our relationship with technology future goes like this:

Digital data (which we’re drowning in and is readily available at the end of any search engine or semantic exploration) is the raw ingredients from which we will make decision and take actions. Knowledge is what technology will routinely give us as it takes this vast amount of data and crafts it into something specific and useful to our inquiry and at this point humans will step in and take this data and knowledge and add the spice of humanity to it and turn it into true wisdom and purpose.

This like many of our other future issues cannot and will not be solved by a single solution or approach.

Many jobs will continue to require people and artisans to use their wisdom to create and make.

People are herd animals and most of us do want to be around other people.

The choice to purchase items made by robots is a human choice, we have instructed the technology and machines to do it and theoretically if we told them to stop and we’ll do it instead, they would and we could -- but we won’t.

The path ahead requires us to cut the ties with many of our past norms and cultural values. It will require us, to re-examine what “work” is, who has to do it, where and when and if that means that not everybody works then how else to people gain income, a sense of dignity and achievement.

Although looking into the eye of the storm, it seems bleak and we question what jobs will there be left for us to do, if technology does replace us on the factory and office floors, I am confident that we will have new jobs, new industries, but more importantly that we will begin to have the conversation that allows for new work styles and practices to evolve; where the notion of work and what we pay people for will be debated and perhaps without returning to a totalitarian, communist or any other word that has populist negative connotations we will begin to explore the very notion of work and its place in our society.

Read the full story here.

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