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We are on the cusp of a new industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is coming. AI will transform the global economy. Robots will be able to undertake roles never before possible.
This will allow the greatest revolution within the global workforce in generations. While there will be scepticism and nervousness, the opportunities far outweigh the risks.
Throughout time humans have always been able to adapt to and benefit from new technology. Years ago, people were concerned with horses being replaced by tractors, today that isn’t an equation we even consider. In 2020, in the United States alone, we are forecast to see a 22% year on year increase in robotics installation, and 12% Globally.
While many in business think the real economic benefit of AI will be through greater profits from fewer people in manual repetitive jobs, the real benefit will be in what these people will do next. For the first time in history, humans will be allowed to do more humane jobs. Caring for the elderly and sick, teaching and transferring knowledge, and working in the arts. These jobs cannot be replaced by AI, they require compassion and emotional intelligence.
Another point is that the machines of the near future will be able to effectively undertake tasks that members of society would rather not. Corporate coffee chains around the world are renowned for one thing, and it is not their coffee. It is the welcome, the smile, and the conversation. Of course, a robot could make and serve a great cup of coffee, but will mainstream society want to lose the personal touch?
Collaboration between humans and AI will be important. AI can transform healthcare as we know it, spotting cancers in scans or fractures in X-Rays, for example. This can hugely accelerate the process of diagnostics. However, AI is not known for its bedside manner, but AI working to support doctors can democratise healthcare like never before.
The number of people ready to help humane industries boom is huge. Globally, 20% of the workforce are in the industry and agriculture sectors. If a chunk of these could be transferred to humane jobs, the benefits would be staggering.
And of course, with AI, the benefits would not stop there, they would speed up our industrial processes, enabling more products to be made. But in agriculture, the effects are even more profound. The world’s population is growing fast. More people require more food. Using AI and robotics may provide an answer to this shortfall in food, helping to tackle hunger and maximising the amount people getting good nutrition. Once these people are fed, often in developing countries, they will be free to take on some of these new humane jobs.
The human brain is capable of more than they currently deliver, some studies think we use as little as 3% of its processing power. AI will be able to remove some of the primal concerns that have used bandwidth since the dawn of time if these can be removed by technology, we are capable of more. Humans would be free to not just unlock their creativity, but also devote more time to their wellbeing, and allow them to nurture their intellect – in modern society, we focus on both less and less. This is the era of the next 3%.
The workplace of the 20th century fostered a damaging culture in which people worked in high-pressure jobs only for a pay check. In the 21st century, we are already seeing new generations of workers looking for manageable workloads and rewarding working environments. The traditional, repetitive and menial jobs of the past do not meet these requirements. AI allows human workers to step away from these jobs, and find employment in sectors which better utilize their time – and unlock their potential.
While this technology will be good for the whole world, developing countries have the most to gain from these advances in technology. If you look at the adoption of the mobile phone, there are some interesting points. One of the countries with the fastest adoption at the beginning of the technology was Italy. People might think it would have been the US, maybe Japan, but it was Italy. This is because of the comparatively low penetration rate of landlines in the country – meaning that mobiles became attractive at once.
It will be the same with these AI machines, and that is something that could do a great deal for the economic, and then social development of these countries. We describe the coming of AI as if it were a breach of a dam, the growth doesn’t come at 10% on year 12% another, it comes exponentially. Investment in to robotics has a greater positive impact than almost any other area. A 1% investment correlates to a growth in GDP per capita of 0.03%.
Providing self-actualisation to everyone in the world should be of great concern to everyone. The world faces a great threat of climate change. It has the potential to interfere with everything, and it needs addressing. AI and the rediscovery of human creativity, the human touch, will allow us not just to feed more people with less, but can help with desalination, power generation, and the democratisation of healthcare.
Some people may say this sounds like a pipe dream – but the process is already starting, whether it be the world’s first robot employment agency, placing robots just like humans on production lines, or a South Korean city being designed with AI in mind. AI is truly the democratisation of the human experience.