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.

Episode #32 - Adaptavate: Creating healthy buildings with a new set of lungs

Show notes

Now, the construction sector has it's problems, certainly when it comes to the negative impact it can have on our dear planet.

In the UK, the energy from fossil fuels used to build and run buildings accounts for about half of our carbon dioxide emissions. Half of that pollution comes from domestic properties and half from commercial buildings, like offices, schools, leisure centres and hotels.

And there is a direct correlation between non-green buildings and climate change. Unsurprisingly, 98 per cent of the world’s megacities – many of which are jam-packed with inefficient properties – are already experiencing climate risks, such as flooding and dramatic weather events. If developers continue to create buildings in the way that they have done for decades, the planet is heading for a 6°C of global warming. That is certainly the view of the World Green Building Council, which has been looking into these things.

And to stick to within a 2°C rise in average global temperatures – a target most scientists believe is our best chance of avoiding catastrophe – the buildings sector will have to reduce 84 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050 – the equivalent of eliminating 22,000 coal-fired power plants.

It is only when you start looking at the individual facets that make up our built environment that you begin to realise just how big a task lies ahead.

Our subject this week is plasterboard. Of course, it is only a small part of the larger constituent, but improving the performance of this ubiquitous material that can be found in properties everywhere could make a big difference. That’s certainly the view of our guest this week. Tom Robinson is the founder of Adaptavate, a company that has created a bio-composite alternative to traditional plaster and plasterboard, giving buildings everywhere a new set of lungs, as he puts it.

Enjoy the show.

You can find out more about Tom and the Adaptavate team on their website.

Tom Robinson, founder of Adaptavate

Tom Robinson, founder of Adaptavate

Tom has won many awards and plaudits for his Breathaboard product

Tom has won many awards and plaudits for his Breathaboard product

The Breathaboard up close

The Breathaboard up close


This week's news round up with Vikki Knowles featured:

- Management Today's piece on whether it is right governments are naming and shaming non-compliance
- The edie.net Premier League sustainability quiz
- Rio's environmental Olympic legacy
- Waitrose's new pasta packaging