I was reading a MediaPost article last week about a robot being developed by Ford that will walk packages up to the front door, which is supposed to eventually coincide with self-driving vehicles. I can’t help to think that this is going to be slightly creepy to see as I’m walking the dog down the sidewalk. The article goes on to talk about the robot’s technology and how precise it really needs to be. This quote caught me off-guard, “As humans, we take these abilities for granted, but they become extremely important when engineering a robot to navigate the nuances of various environments”.
Do we take the ability to walk a package up to the front door for granted? I think the appropriate way to phrase this is that we take the jobs of people walking a package up to the front door for granted. I’m fascinated by new technologies, I really am. I watched The Jetsons when I was a kid and thought having a jetpack and a flying car would be the coolest. But I’m equally old school and enjoyed watching the Flintstones just as much. I’ve read enough articles that talk about how the future of AI will not turn the economy upside on its head
Ok, but what about the human element? We continue to find ways not to talk to one another. There is less and less human interaction on a daily basis, and I believe the small, insignificant touch points like banking and grocery shopping are starting to add up. And fast. How is a teenager going to learn life communication skills if he can’t be a cashier at McDonald’s?
This is where the optimist and pessimist in me get into a little fist fight. Often times I’ll take different sides, depending on the article I’m reading or the type of conversation I’m in. Asking whether automation is a good or bad thing is irrelevant. Automation is (and will continue to be) inevitable.
Opinions will differ when asking a white-collar worker compared to a blue-color worker, as I’m sure if a horse could talk, he would give you an earful. Will AI become so advanced that it will make human labor obsolete? The argument can be had from any angle honestly and is quite debatable. I came across this timeline that put my mind at ease (for a second) that visually represents where AI fits in along with the different revolutions that have disrupted jobs and how we go about our everyday lives.
There will be a day when people won’t even remember what it was like before Rosie the Robot cleaned their house or delivered packages to their door. Just like online shopping is for us now and electricity was to people 200 years ago. Job loss is certain, but the optimist in me believes AI will create even more opportunity. The pessimist is still concerned for the teenager who can go an entire day texting and ‘communicating’, while never actually speaking a word.