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Robotics - New Nirvana or Road to Hell

Planning for all possible outcomes

· Robotics,RPA

Robots, AI, automation are certainly the stars of the moment.

The coming of the fourth industrial revolution, as it has been described, elevated it to one of the key themes at Davos.

Based on the number of articles appearing and the time given over to this movement, and also from what I have read and seen, there is certainly a drive to replace the use of people with robotics, Artificial Intelligence and robotic process automation.

This is more than mere marketing puff and it will have a profound impact on the world as we know it.

There is also no doubt this movement will gather pace as the corporate world better understands the impact on the bottom and top lines.

The ability to remotely monitor the wear on engines, review and more accurately identify problems from MRI scans, quickly make loan or claims decisions, and customize the education of our children are just a few examples of the positive aspects of this automation movement and should be welcomed by all.

It is also probably fair to say that the benefits are not yet fully understood and may well be even greater than those currently foreseen.

There is certainly a very good chance we will see a new nirvana in some areas.

On the flip side there seems to be little, if any, focus on the potential downsides the move towards automation may bring.

Given the likely impact on the workforce the one area which currently fills me with a certain level of disquiet is the disingenuous approach to that impact.

We are consistently sold a vision of a world in which automation will release individuals from the drudgery of work and allow them to focus on better valued added tasks.

This may be true for those more highly educated or working in knowledge based roles but what about the large mass of white collar and blue collar workers threatened by the move to automation in whatever guise.

A Doctor may well be able to use the time released from reviewing scans to perform another more valuable task and the same may well apply to a lawyer or accountant but what about the lorry driver, the invoice clerk and the insurance claims handler?

Are we seriously proposing that these will be released to perform more valuable work?

These are all currently valued members of the workforce of today who support and play an important part in society but who will likely struggle to find a fulfilling role in the Brave New World vision and we could quickly find ourselves on a road to hell if we do not tread carefully.

At the moment, and it may just be a timing issue, there also seems to be a limited appreciation of the potential impact on social cohesion and society of the mass removal of work, income and livelihood from large groups of individuals.

This will obviously have implications for the tax revenues generated and services provided by the State and we need to seriously think about how to address this area.

Maybe we need to review the tax raising models in place and consider changing them in recognition of the new normal of fewer working people, lower personal tax revenues and higher corporate profits.

Layered in here is also a need to ensure that Society as a whole benefit and not just the richest 1% as we have all seen the impact of a disillusioned electorate who feel left behind and under-valued.

We should all be in favour of making life better and easier for all and driving towards a new nirvana yet we do need to make sure do not leave anyone behind and create insurmountable problems for us all.

As someone once said "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

The following article is one of the best I have read on the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution and I would recommend you take a read:

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/

Plus you may want to give the following a peruse as well:

https://hbr.org/2014/12/what-happens-to-society-when-robots-replace-workers

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/teachers-must-get-out-of-their-ideological-rut-d72rlzgn0?shareToken=43c300c5ae105e2b8a3a07a0aaa67471

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