Will robots enhance or eliminate jobs?

Will robots enhance or eliminate jobs?
SA’s first humanoid robot at Sustainability Week 2018
Will robots enhance or eliminate jobs?
SA’s first humanoid robot at Sustainability Week 2018 (Image from: www.businessinsider.com)

Science fiction is a thing of the past. Augmented reality has outstripped the technological imagination. We have to learn to co-create with our own creations. This is the advance message of the forthcoming Industry 4.0 Workshop at Sustainability Week 2018, which will be held at the CSIR International Convention Centre from 05 to 07 June 2018.

“We are at the nexus of a human technological revolution that will be different from any prior era,” says Fuad Siddiqui, Senior Partner at Bell Labs Consulting, who will be speaking at Sustainability Week this year. “The digitization and connection of everything and everyone will allow us to effectively create time by augmenting human knowledge to drive the intelligent automation of everything,” he says.

Joining Siddiqui will be an emissary from the future: Pepper, the humanoid robot.

Pepper is South Africa’s first client-friendly humanoid robot, recently unveiled at Nedbank’s digital-branch, the NZone, at the Gautrain station in Sandton. Pepper is set to become Nedbank’s newest client service champion in the pursuit of enriching the client experience.

Part of Pepper’s role is to allay fears around robots. For example: an important concern of developing countries is that the conjunction of Artificial Intelligence and automation poses a threat to workers’ jobs. Quite simply, the fear is that workers will be automated out of existence.

Pepper explains how Industry 4.0, on the contrary, has the potential to upgrade workers’ lives by transforming jobs from mechanical functions to dynamic, problem-solving activities. Quoting a recent report by the Development Policy and Analysis Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the empathetic robot reassures:

“First off, artificial intelligence, 3D printers and other innovations are generally designed to excel at a very specific set of tasks.” To master an entire occupation takes considerable versatility and adaptability.

“Secondly, new technologies also create jobs.” Technological innovation has always enhanced productivity and created new products and markets, generating new jobs.

“Thirdly, just because it is technically feasible to substitute an entire profession with computers, does not mean it will happen. A variety of economic, legal, regulatory and socio-political factors will prevent many occupations from disappearing.”

A recent study found that by 2016, of the 270 occupations listed in the A 1950 US census, automation had eliminated only one – elevator operator.

Pepper will be interacting with delegates at the Sustainability Week 2018 Expo. Watch this video to whet your curiosity:

Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

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