Monday, March 28, 2016

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

I had written part one of this back in December.  On March 15, two articles appeared in USA Today regarding the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW) in Austin, TX.  Reported sessions for the festival included “Robot Armageddon:  AI, Jobs and Inequality” and “Will AI Augment or Destroy Humanity?”  (AI = Artificial Intelligence) One of the opening day sessions was by Hiroshi Ishiguro who presented a variety of robots and a geminoid.  A geminoid, as the name implies, is a twin in that it looks like an android but lets a user manipulate it.  Ishiguro proposes that soon geminoids will take the physical place of humans while being manipulated by a brain – machine interface.  His androids are used as shopkeepers and TV hosts throughout Japan.  He predicts that, “. . . we’ll have a robot society in the very near future, in maybe three or five years.”

The second USA Today article revolved around an interview session with the developer of Siri, Dag Kittlaus.  Later this year, Kittlaus will unveil Viv, an open sourced, cloud based personal assistant that will allow humans to talk to the Internet and the Internet to talk back.  Viv uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn from each conversation and create unique search algorithms to become more responsive in the future.  Viv will be different from Siri, Cortana, or Echo by being able to reason.  He said, “Siri was chapter one, and now it’s almost like a new Internet age is coming.  Viv will be a giant brain in the sky.”  Also, during the interview he confidently predicted that supercomputers might take over for entrepreneurs using their digital brains to create things faster than humans. 

Then, just today (March 22) an article appeared in the USA Today portion of the Tennesseean titled “Next Job Skill is Adapting to Automation.”  A report from the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee reveals that “As many as 1.4 million Tennesseans are at risk of losing their jobs to automation.”  According to the report, Middle Tennessee will be particularly hard hit.  Randy Boyd, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development said that the people who are most at risk of losing jobs are those who don’t have post-secondary skills.  The report goes on to say, “History demonstrates that a shift toward heightened technological demands of the business community does not likely coincide with declining demand for labor.  Automation of workplace tasks will displace workers, but not replace workers.  Rather than eliminating labor, automation is likely to reshape the distribution of jobs.”

To reprise the question, “Will a robot take your job?” The answer is probably, “It depends on your skills,” but it further emphasizes how technology will change our work lives and our personal lives in ways hard to imagine.  Our students must be equipped to be lifelong learners to adjust to this Brave New World. (Nod to Aldous Huxley.)

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