Monday, March 21, 2016

Dr. Faulkner: Will a Robot Take Your Job? Part One

What can humans do that robots cannot?
·         -In 1997 IBM’s Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
·         -Google translates spoken, written and photographed languages.
·         -iRobot cleans your floors.
·         -Armar IIIa loads and unloads the dishwasher.
·         -Daimler tests self-driving semi-trucks in Nevada.
·         -California licenses self-driving cars.
·         -In 2011, IBM’s Watson defeats two human Jeopardy champions.
·         -UC Berkeley researchers are training a robot to identify and cut away cancerous tissues.
·         -Charles Schwab introduces Roboadvisers that manage stock portfolios.
·         -Cambridge University researchers create a “mother robot that can assemble baby robots.”

If robots can do all this and more, “How will we humans add value?”  Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers says this is “the defining economic feature of our era.”  It is the question addressed by Geoff Calvin in his recently published book, Human are Underrated (Penguin Publishing Group, 2015) and the subject of his article in the August, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine.

While we in higher education often concentrate our teaching on technical skills to prepare the next generation of robot creators, builders, and programmers, Calvin offers that we must also develop some very human skills for the future.

The article lays out that human skills will be in demand because ultimately we want a human to take responsibility and we want humans to meet us on an interpersonal level.  Even though the diagnosis may have come from a computer, we want a human doctor to communicate that to us.  We want judges to render verdicts even if an algorithm could do it better.

An Oxford Economic research firm found that “employers’ top priorities include relationship building, teaming, co-creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity and ability to manage diverse employees . . . “  Oracle groups vice president Meg Bear is quoted in the article as saying, “Empathy is the critical 21st century skill.”

So as we produce graduates that are technically capable and possess appropriate professional skills, we must also cultivate their relational skills or else they are just robots.

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