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Not to fear the technological revolution

Not to fear the technological revolution


– By Dixita Mehta

A round disk-like machine with a mop/vacuum/broom attached to the ground, equipped with sensors and all the classy technology is replacing ‘the maid industry’ in many cities. Roomba 692 vacuum cleaning, with fully automatic system is found in many homes especially where labour force is expensive or low in supply. One 1 in every 2 jobs have a high risk of being taken over by machines, robots and technology. The jobs you never thought to be automated are now being automated and replaced by technology. My niece, 9 years old, asked me what the scope of fashion stylist is in the near future. (As she wants to be one). I am almost perplexed to answer this question (at such a young age, coming up with such in depth questions is a progress but a challenge for the mentors to answer accurately). What will the scope be in any field after 10-15 years is something we can only assume not accurately predict? What promises can we give to the young minds and on what basis? Any jobs that was thought to be only done by humans, 20 years back, are now being done by a machine. What are the things a machine can do which man cannot? Or being more precise, why using machines is better and more effective? Or should we be worried about digitalisation and technological revolution? Let us dive into these questions.

First of all, machines learn data and predict, simply ‘mimicking’ some of the things which human can do. Machines learning started in the early 90s. The work was limited to making lives easier. Par example, sorting out pin codes to calling anyone- anytime, anywhere (invention of mobile phones). To our surprise, machine nowadays are doing far more complex work than we originally thought of. From scratching our backs or giving us massages to landing us onto the moon (you name it and machines can do it). Machine learning will outgrow human tasks to a great extent. Backing up my statement with an example- a teacher might read 10000 essays in a span of 20 years, an eye doctor might diagnose over 10000 patients in a lifetime, but a machine can see millions of patients and millions of eyes and millions of essays in a matter of few days, hours (and only god knows) even few minutes in the near future. Should feel insecure and scared of being replaced by the technology, robots, and machines or do we have a slight chance of winning?

The answer is- We have no chance of competing against machines. They are continual, almost accurate (devoid of human error), they give us solutions quick and in high volumes, and chances of a conflict is almost negligible.  For example- we don’t fight with the “boot system” in the online shopping websites, but if we are confronted by a customer care ‘‘human being” we will leave no stone unturned to prove them wrong and how their system is outdated or they are rude, or they are not professionals or the product is not good. Despite of these qualities of machines, I would still go ahead and say: we don’t need to fear ‘being replaced by the machines’ part of the question. There are certain things (very essential things) that machine or technology cannot dare to do. One such matter at hand is intervening in solving Novel problems and giving us ‘Novel solutions’. In simpler terms, machines are not designed to handle things they haven’t seen beforehand (per say, give them novel problems, machines will start scratching their heads). The fundamental learning of a machine and technology lies in the fact that they need a large amount of input in terms of data from the past to solve the current situations. On the contrary, we humans have a talent that has been a blessing to solve or tackle our problems which are one of its kind.

Let us back up our claim with an example: Percy Spencer was a physicist in the World War 1 who was stationed in an extremely cold environment, devoid of any facilities. Amidst these conditions, somewhere out of the blue he noticed that magnetron was melting his chocolate bar (things we observe when we are bored). He instantly was able to connect his understanding of electromagnetic radiation with his knowledge and love for the chocolate bar (food per say) and invented the famous microwave oven. This is a classic example of creativity (and we thought creativity is only limited to arts, crafts, music or forming an excuse!). Any cross pollination of ideas create a breeding ground for creativity. Making a connection and coming up with a novel solution for the future is a talent which is bestowed upon each and every one of us. Such talent might be mimicked by the Artificial intelligence (AI), technology or machines but cannot be replaced. If we cannot compete with machines in catering to large amount of problems at once, machines cannot compete with us in tackling Novel Out-of-the-box, creative situations which future demands. Moreover, we are the creators of the technology, AI and machines, not the other way round. What we feed to the machine, that much and only that much will it grow. The maker always have the upper hand, which is what ought to be and should be!

So how will we know that our job is secure or not?  The answer lies in knowing till what extent our job is reducible to frequent high volume tasks and are we involved in tackling Novel out-of-the-box situations. Are you involved creatively in any job you are posted? We all fear problems. Well, this fear needs to be overcome, because that is going to save us from being bankrupt or jobless. If you are able to solve complex situations and give creative input in any field (from banking sector to the designing sector), your job is safe and has lot of scope.

But be reminded, in the coming years. Machines and technology are going to do things which we cannot possibly imagine. One of the reasons for such a marvellous growth lies in the fact that we were behind designing and creating them. They are for sure, without a blink of an eye, going to ease our work to a much larger extent, shelving so many of us out of jobs. Our taxes will be paid, accounting needs will be solved, courts will be run autonomous, houses, bridges, roads will be built, etc. But remember, the maker of these technologies will be needed (the IT sector) and also the solver of the complex tax, accounting and construction problems will be required. Developing business strategy, creativity, problem solving, decision making and novelty taking into consideration the future problems will never go out of demand. And this is what is going to save us our jobs. To put our claims in a form of example- you can get all the information in the world in the tip of your hands, one swipe in your smart phone and you are presented with all the information on the subject. Does this mean education and the role of teachers have reduced? The answer is a firm NO. In fact, all the information has raised the demand for effective teachers and individuals who can share their expertise and experience to the students- to narrow down and bifurcate misinformation from the information and provide concrete, practical and on-field learning. (Apart from many other roles of the teachers).

Let everyday bring you a new challenge. Don’t fear complex situations. This is what makes you desirable for work and also as a human. If you can unleash your creative persona (which we all have regardless of what myths we are holding), you will be ahead of technology and machines. Let no problem, how much complex or how much terrifying it seems, bring your confidence down. Only humans can give the “Human touch” to such novel problems- No technology will ever do. Humans have created technology for assistance and easing the work load not to use it as a crutch and deteriorate your creative process.  You are you, because you thinking of the past, present and the future all at once. You are you because you have emotions, feelings, problem solving and decision making capacity. Your passion drives you to be creative, be it in the field of technology, maths, sciences, arts and crafts or business. You are irreplaceable by the manmade technology or the latest Artificial Intelligence (AI).

So one advice I would like to give my 9 year old niece and all the young generations alike. If you can bring about a change in the lives of others and solve a Novel problem in your industry, your job has a lot of scope for you and it is secure. Grow your emotional intelligence, decision making talent, problem solving process, and you are good to flourish. Make yourself available for all those things that machines cannot certainly fathom and act. Be the boss of machines and technology. Put a stop to the fear of losing your jobs to machines and technology.