Category Archives: AI

Are We Unnecessarily​ Concerned About Robots and Automation?

AI
Robots – I came across yet another article on the impact of robots and automation this morning “Stop freaking out about robots“. This article had a more positive outlook than most in this field have had. Among the points this article brings out:

  • Counterintuitive as it may seem, automation can play a key role in creating more and better jobs, and rising prosperity.
  • Since the Industrial Revolution, the automation of human labor has run hand-in-hand with productivity gains, economic growth, and an increase in the number of jobs and prosperity
  • a study by the Boston University School of Law into the impact of automation on 270 occupations in the U.S. since 1950 found that only one was eliminated: lift operators
  • Machines generally take on simple tasks, as humans move to more complex–and often more meaningful–work
  • The fatalism around robot-driven inequality suffers from peering at the future through technology blinkers

So what is the answer? It is still too early to tell. Robots, AI, and Automation will definitely have an impact on many professions. The question is what it will be.

 

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Will AI and Automation Cut or Create Jobs?

AI
Robots – I came across the article “In the Coming Automated Economy, People Will Work for AI” and thought it had some good points to share. Some of the most interesting points in my opinion:

  • Many experts believe that AI will also make inroads on white-collar jobs, and say the transition to an AI economy will put vast swaths of people out of work. Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google China, recently predicted that 50 percent of the world’s jobs are in danger.
  • Techno-optimists argue that as AI does away with some jobs, it will create new ones
  • Prepping data for AI is certainly a [job] growth area
  • new-style jobs that will be created by AI and automation: part-time, paid based on tasks completed, without benefits
  • cloud labor and microtasking jobs are a boon for people with limited income opportunities in their area
  • Not everyone agrees that the move to an AI economy is going to cause an employment crisis
  • Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a nonprofit public policy group, argues that while there will be job losses, growth in existing occupations will more than make up the difference

There is no real way to predict how AI and automation will impact jobs. Certainly this, like many other articles, cite those on both sides of the argument. The only thing we can do is to be prepared and take career options that will provide the most protection.

New Automated News Anchors

Robots – China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has unveiled two new robot news anchors. These new anchors will provide English and Chinese language news reports.

While not completely life like the English speaking anchor, at least in the video clip above, does a good job. This kind of technology isn’t going to be replacing your favorite anchors on the local news channels, at least not yet. This does show though that it is possible that robots might become part of the regular news team sooner than you might think!

Are You Ready for the Moxi Robot During Your Next Hospital Stay?

Robots – I came across the article “Moxi Prototype from Diligent Robotics Starts Helping Out in Hospitals” this morning. The Moxi is a robot from Diligent Robotics. Moxi is being piloted it right now. As they say about Moxi on the company website:

Moxi is a friendly AI healthcare robot that serves as a vital supporting member of healthcare professional teams by conducting the team’s non-patient facing logistical tasks, so the staff has more time to focus on patient care. 

We were inspired to create Moxi to help support clinical staff members in hospitals with their fast paced and demanding roles. Clinical staff balance patient care with massive loads of manual logistical responsibilities, such as fetching and restocking supplies or setting up patient rooms for new admissions. With an extra hand from Moxi, who autonomously completes those manual logistical tasks end-to-end without assistance, clinical staff focus on what they want to do and what they, as caring human beings, are best at: direct patient care.

So don’t look for Moxi to perform your next operation. It is there to help bring items from storage to patient rooms. Those non-medical, logistical tasks.

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This is Diligent Robotics second iteration of the product, they previously had Poli. I have to say that part of what caught my eye with this article was 1) the fact that the CEO and co-founder Andrea Thomaz is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. I am an EE alumnus of UT Austin. And 2) that the company is based in Austin, TX, where my home is.

Part of what impressed me about this robot was how many off-the-shelf component parts they have used to assemble the new Moxi. That says to me that the robotics industry is beginning mature, and more robots will be appearing soon among us. Certainly having robots freeing people from the mundane logistics tasks will allow more focus on patient care.

On the other side of this advancement in tech is the potential displacement of staff that such robots will cause. However, with the costs of health care constantly increasing, finding ways of reducing costs is inevitable.

I will be very curious to hear how the pilots of Moxi go.

Coffee by Drone?

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Coffee – Coffee delivered by drone? Well, why not.

I saw the article “IBM Files a Patent for Coffee Delivery Drone Which Knows You Want Your Coffee” recently that describes how an IBM patent would work. A wearable device would determine the customer’s ‘need’ for a caffeine fix and make the delivery. The system might learn personal coffee preferences or when each day a delivery should be made.

When I worked at IBM my office was in an open cubicle farm area with a high ceiling. This would have worked great there. I am not so sure about other more closed office areas. Still, I think that this is ‘outside the box’ thinking on the part of IBM engineers. Something like this might well be the first use case for drone delivery.

Better yet, at least for me, would be a completely automated system for the home. My Apple Watch could signal it when I woke of a morning. The automatic device could grind the coffee beans, brew me a cup and deliver it to me by drone. Personally, I would much rather have a flying cup of coffee than a flying car.

I have read where there are some restaurants in China that deliver orders to tables via robots. How far of a jump is it to coffee delivery by drone?

Are we on​ the brink of the ‘End of Work’?

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Robots – I read the article “The Beginning of the End of Work” this morning and I think that it brings up many good points. I have touched on this in prior posts, but it is good to reiterate it here.

Some of the points the article brings out:

  • 47 percent of all jobs are threatened in the United States
  • Robots and AI are going to cut an even deeper swath through the middle class, blue and white collar, and there are no replacement jobs
  • Universal basic income (UBI) might be an answer

I am not a fan of UBI, nor have the pilot programs tried so far been much of a success. In my opinion, the move towards AI, robotics, and automation is inevitable. Any company or country that ignores this or which tries to impede (i.e. through legislation) the tech will find themselves trailing those who embrace it.

How should this be dealt with? I don’t know. But we can’t ignore the potential problem and hope it goes away. People need to be thinking about and discussing this now.

Will Robots Cause Job Loss?

Robots – I came across this video today. It was published to YouTube back in November of 2017. While I think it brings up a number of good points, I am still concerned that the increasing introduction of robots and automation will have a detrimental effect on jobs. While I do agree that automation will create new jobs, I fear that the bulk of the new jobs created will be lower paying than those that are eliminated.

I guess only time will tell. All we can do, as far as I can see, is to prepare through continuing education. It is also important for students to choose their professions after some consideration of the future work environment. I do hope that High School councilors are equipped to guide these students into what will turn out to be long-term professions.

Disney Autonomous Animatronics

Robots – I have always liked the animatronics that Disney has placed in their parks. Now they are headed in a new direction with some new self-contained, autonomous animatronic characters – the Vyloo. I read about these today in the article “Disney has begun populating its parks with autonomous, personality-driven robots“.

These creatures have embedded cameras and sensors as well as the control electronics to make them come to life. These little robotic figures are programmed with actions and motions, but what makes them unique is the way they can sense their audience and interact with them.

I look forward to seeing these little guys and even more advanced versions in the years ahead. I can easily see where autonomous robots like these are going to be key to establishing the immersive experience that Disney wants to offer their visitors.

Robots Aid Restaurant Servers

Robots – Robots are coming. Some places they are already part of the workforce, like the Kang Nam Tofu House, a Korean restaurant in a strip mall in Milpitas, California.  A former Google engineer who owns the Kang Nam Tofu House developed a delivery robot he named Penny. The robot is being built by another company he co-founded, Bear Robotics.

The robot, which has supplemented servers rather than replacing any, delivers food and bills to tables. They claim this has freed the employees to focus more on customer service. The robot is small enough to navigate between the tables and has sensors to avoid obstacles. The robot is now being evaluated in pilot operations at a few other Bay Area restaurants.

How would you feel if a robot such as this delivered you food at your next restaurant visit?