Episode #44 - The robots are coming, look busy (or how human values can trump AI in business)

Show notes

Artificial intelligence and robotics are coming into our lives more than ever before. They have the potential to transform healthcare, transport, manufacturing, and even our domestic chores.

It is thought that 60% of kids starting primary school right now will end up in a profession that does not yet exist. And there’s a good chance that, by 2030, there will be a worldwide shortage of roboticists.

AI and robotics are showing up in every part of life – from driving, to the mobile technology we use, how our data is managed in the world, and how our homes are going to be built in the future.

So given its ubiquity, it really is important to start addressing the strengths and limitations of artificial intelligence. And that's what we do on this week's show.

Essentially, AI and robotics are making us smarter because we are able to leverage computers to search databases in ways that we couldn’t before. Take something like healthcare. There’s no doubt we’re going to see machine learning techniques try to get a better understanding of what symptoms might lead to certain diseases. And that’s good news. Progress is good.

However, right now, AI is not nearly as smart as people would like it to be. We’re nowhere near a car that can drive itself under all conditions at all times., for example.

Plus, the use of AI and robots throws up all manner of questions about ethics. There is a very good reason it is a subject being featured prominently on the agenda when the World Economic Forum kicks off in Davos in January.

There is an argument which says we, as humans, need to be sure that the decision logic that we programme into systems is what we perceive to be ethical and then, of course, that the sensors can actually detect the world as it is and what we hope it should be.

There’s a great article WEF published last month (Can we trust robots to make ethical decisions?) which lists a whole bunch of examples where AI has gone wrong.

Driverless cars is on that list and there has been plenty of debate as to how Google has programmed an algorithm to ensure a car will hit a building before it hits a person.

Despite these ongoing ethical, moral, sustainable dilemmas, AI and robots are here to stay.

By 2030, we will see much more technology being used in homes, offices, cars – that understand our behaviour and can change the environment and do various tasks around the home.

And the general assumption is that we will live in an improved world. But it will be one in which there will be less jobs.

And that is something our guest on this week’s show wholeheartedly contests.

Laura Thomson (right) is a workplace learning and development consultant who started up her business Phenomenal Training eight years ago,. She spends her time working with businesses to train teams to maximise their potential, whether in sales, management, leadership or communications. For the last few years, she has been focused on human decision making under pressure too.

And Laura has been closely monitoring the rise of robots in the workplace and is confident that the value of humans – in our creativity, our curiosity, our ability to care and empathise, and the way in which we can collaborate with each other - should not be ignored or underestimated in the face of the smarts and efficiency offered up by robots.

Enjoy the show.