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Should we fear or embrace the robots of the future?

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King Canute tried to stop the future. In his case, it was the very immediate future he tried to stop, he tried to stop the next tide from coming in by the command in his voice. Maybe Harry Potter could pull of such a feat, but King Canute couldn’t.

Whether we should embrace or fear the robots of the future is really not the point. Do we fear the inexorable turning of the tide? There is no point in fearing what we can’t control.

The future of technology is robots, that is inevitable. We cannot stop this any more than King Canute could command the sea.

We react to the tide by not building houses on a beach – not unless they are sand castles. But we embrace the tide, we surf it, for example. Furthermore, the future of technology is not only robots, it is also renewable energy, and this may well include tapping into the power of the tide. We embrace the tide because we have no choice. Fearing it would be as pointless as fearing the rise of robots.

Robots are not new. A washing machine is a robot. Most people celebrate its invention. As we do the invention of tumble driers and dish washers.

Sure, robots will take some jobs, the future of technology is that it will always take jobs.  But technology creates jobs too, redundant human dish washers have now found new professions.

But the next generation of robots may have an even more profound impact on the world than the washing machine.

Manufacturing industries will be disrupted by robots – indeed they already have been.  And in parts of the world the jobs losses caused by robots have been devastating.

But we have no choice but to embrace the change.

Frankly, when it comes to the future of technology and its impact on jobs, artificial intelligence may be just as disruptive. This time around, technology won’t just hit manufacturing jobs, but it will hit jobs once seen as the preserve of the Middle Class, such as accountancy or insurance actuaries.

But new jobs will emerge in their place.

The future of technology is profound, but jobs that require empathy and social intelligence will always be in demand.

We are also set to enter the era of bespoke design, the customer gets what he or she wants, and we may see jobs emerge in which skills using 3D printing, and operating robots that can make clothes, combine with design skills and customer service skills to give the customer the design he/she requires.

As for AI, there may be a lesson from chess. Although computers can now beat the best chess players in the world at the game, it turns out that a talented human chess player working with a computer can beat any computer at chess.

The future of technology does not mean we, as a species, will be made redundant, it means that we can use computers to support us, to make us smarter.

And for that reason, we should embrace them.




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