The Rise of the Robots
How Machine Learning will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another
Theme: ‘Innovating, Empowering, Overcoming’
For most of us when we think about Robots we will have our own image and our own view about them.
Our imagery of robots will mostly come from the various films we have seen;
we might think about
Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 Terminator from the classic 1985 film
I am sure most of you will know of the humanoid robots in the 2004 film I, Robot.
And of course the more recent 2015 film Ex-Machina with the human qualities of a humanoid A.I called Ava.
But there is a long history of references to robots, automation and automata.
The term automation, inspired by the earlier word automatic (coming from automaton), was not widely used before 1947, when the Ford Motor company established an automation department.
Isaac Asimov in 1940 wrote about robotics and defined the three laws of robotics, but in fact the word ‘robot’ was first used to denote a fictional humanoid in a 1920 film Rossum’s Universal Robots by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek but it was Karel’s brother Josef Čapek who was the word’s true inventor.
And the word Automata was first used in Ancient Greek times by Homer to describe automatic door opening or automatic movement of wheeled tripods.
Despite this long history for robots, physical robots are still reasonably uncommon with the exception of toys or assembly line manufacturing plants, with the long term vision of robots still very much a thing of science fiction
However, there is a type of robot that takes a much more immaterial form and is much more common.
I would suggest that most of us are carrying one in our pockets today, and it takes the form of computer code
Our mobile phones and the virtual assistants inside them, like Siri, Cortana or Now offered by the large tech companies are simple forms of a robot or automation that have been coded to perform very basic tasks.
And while they are doing simple tasks at the moment, their capabilities will grow rapidly over the coming years.
Facebook with their Messenger platform are allowing companies to create chatbots to automate the sales process in conversational form.
These Chatbots, as the name suggests, are robots, that take the form of a software algorithms that have been constructed to talk like a human to create “helpers” that will serve to promote brands and sell products and services to us all. These chatbots use machine learning techniques to be able to use natural language to converse with us.
Another example of robots as software code, is one that many will have heard of. Self driving cars are becoming very much a hot topic recently, with Tesla, Ford, Google and others all introducing cars that are capable of driving themselves.
This ability is delivered by software code that has learnt how to drive by a combination of trial and error and watching humans drive. The car is just altered to be controlled by computer rather than by a human turning the steering wheel and pressing the peddles.
So robots in the form of software code which uses machine learning are the true rise of the robots, they are already all around us, and will in the next few years become more and more powerful, transforming the world we live in.
We must remember its the software code and machine learning that makes the robots clever, not the physical mechanics of the robot itself. And many robots wont have a traditional physical body as we see with many robots in the movies.
Technology Innovation has been advancing exponentially, and we are at the point where massive developments are happening at an extremely rapid pace. Its very difficult to keep up with the rapid advances and latest improvements happening in technology.
Essentially we have hit a significant tipping point.
Firstly, for machine intelligence the perfect storm of access to huge quantities of data and the availability of massive computational power has really been behind the most recent achievements with machine intelligence techniques like deep learning, especially for image and speech recognition.
Secondly, technology and specifically machine learning is demonstrating the capability to perform better than humans.
And by better I don’t just mean quicker, by better I also mean more accurate.
So thats quicker and more accurate than any human can achieve.
Machines can correctly classify images more accurately than humans
Machines can perform medical diagnosis for specific conditions more accurately than humans
Machines can drive more safely than humans, as the algorithms used have been trained on more driving hours than any one human can do,
And they are getting better almost every day.
Language translation is one of the most difficult tasks, and machine are becoming better and better at this, now able to translate between Chinese and English which is one of the most difficult translations to perform.
Where will this end.
Well there is much research happening at the moment
to discover forms of General Artificial Intelligence (which is intelligence that can be applied to any problem),
and eventually Super Intelligence (which will far exceed our own human intelligence)
Both are a very long way into the future. The best minds in the sector are saying between 10 to 25 years for General AI and more than 100 years for super intelligence.
But it is coming, and it will have a huge impact on our lives when it does.
Powering smarter and smarter robots, altering the way we will live and work forever.
I believe that the rise of the robots does promise a utopian future for us.
A future I look forward to see.
A future where we are all empowered to be the best we possible can be.
Imagine a world where every simple and repetitive tasks could be done by machines.
Freeing us to focus on more enjoyable and challenging tasks
Lets look at the Four A’s Pyramid Framework which shows us how our use of machine intelligence will increase in complexity allowing more benefits to be delivered as our abilities with these techniques improve.
Starting from the top of the pyramid, we have analytics, this is where our methods to understand data, finding patterns and clusters within the data helps us to better explain the real world, offering reasons for many things that at first sight we may not understand.
The next level, augmentation, is when we have the situation that a machine can augment our lives with semi-automated solutions. A simple example of this is the recommendation service we experience with shopping sites like Amazon.
Automation is where machine intelligence really starts to add significant value to us.
For example a robot in the home could organise our shopping and perform tasks we don’t want to do ourselves.
Automation at work would take away many of the mundane and repetitive tasks and augment others, overall supporting humans to perform better at work.
Humans would only need to work on tasks that are more complex, challenging and interesting.
Becoming more focused on advancing ourselves and our collective knowledge.
With many of the basic tasks automated, we would have much more time to dedicate to more interesting work.
The last stage of the pyramid is adaptation, and this is where we will need machines and robots to continually adapt to new situations in order to keep their automation performance at suitable levels.
This is critical, as without this, we risk relying on the robots and then slowly over time they start to fail, because what they have learnt becomes slightly out of date and incorrect.
The benefits delivered by the full potential of intelligent automation and robots are simple amazing.
Our relationship with technology and the advances that come with it, have always been a difficult path to navigate.
- The mass production and manufacturing lines of the second industrial revolution, was a difficult period of time for many but we managed to adapt to the changes it caused.
- The advent of computers replacing typewriters was thought to produce the paperless office and impact the jobs of office workers, but with as many jobs it reduced, new roles were created.
- The trade off between our privacy and personal data and the benefits achieved by services that track our movements and actions to recommend things we may like, has often been controversial.
However, these developments previously only impacted a specific sector or industry.
The fourth industrial revolution, with the advent of machine intelligence will have an impact on all industries and all sectors across both our personal and professional lives.
No job will be unaffected, we will all have to adapt, learn new skills and alter the way we work.
That is why education is key
However, there are some challenges to overcome,
One of these challenges concerns the ethics and governance of such advanced technologies and capabilities.
Would we want to have such advanced intelligence controlled by a small group of people?
How should the rules governing intelligence systems when faced with difficult decisions be coded, who’s ethical principles should be used?
It is important to make sure the entire population can understand and benefit from machine intelligence, automation and robotics.
One, To raise awareness about the positive benefits of such technology revolution
Two, To educate people with the correct skills and knowledge about the tools to utilise robots and artificial intelligence.
Programming such tools, coding automations to help our everyday tasks will be a significant skill
and we risk a huge divide between those who can and those who cant leverage the power of robotics if we don’t start to addressing this now.
And Three, To cope with the evolving jobs market. Everyone’s jobs will be enhanced by robotics
Many many jobs will change, some jobs will disappear, and other jobs will be created.
To overcome this changing jobs market, we will need a focus on education to re-skill those affected.
Making machines smarter will empower us to achieve more but I believe educating people about this now, will benefit us all by ensuring a wider positive adoption and utilisation of such technologies.
As with all the previous major technology innovations, the majority of the impact will be positive, giving significantly more benefit to our lives than any downside.
However we will all need to adapt and embrace the changes, welcome the improvements to our lives, with the repetitive tasks taken away from us, done by automation and robots, leaving us to focus on the more important / difficult and rewarding work.
The rise of the robots and machine intelligence is a significant innovation that will empower all of us to achieve more, if we can only overcome the changes we will all need to make, to fully capitalise on the benefits in both our personal and professional lives.