In 2014, out of the 229,000 industrial robots sold globally, more than 57,000 were sold to Chinese companies. Japanese companies bought the second largest number at 29,300. This makes China the leader when it comes to adopting automation. And in another report it shows that China makes up 69 percent of industrial robotic manufacturing profits.
Some technical experts are going as far as to say that the proliferation of robotics into the workforce may result in a U.S. and China armed conflict due to widespread job displacement over the upcoming years. Kai-Fu Lee, a renowned technical expert, entrepreneur, and educator, and the chairman of an AI (artificial intelligence) lab run by his VC firm Sinnovation Ventures, wrote in an article for The New York Times, Beijing:
“What is artificial intelligence today? Roughly speaking, it’s technology that takes in huge amounts of information from a specific domain (say, loan repayment histories) and uses it to make a decision in a specific case (whether to give an individual a loan) in the service of a specified goal (maximizing profits for the lender). Think of a spreadsheet on steroids, trained on big data. These tools can outperform human beings at a given task.”
So, even though robotics has a big impact on the manufacturing industry, AI (also referred to as “automation”) has taken over office jobs. Everything from accounting to ordering a taxi is automated now. There are even whisperings of AI taking over the tarmac at airports around the world. Thus, it is not surprising that there is a growing amount of discussion globally about AI and job displacement.
Automation in the medical industry
One of the exciting things we are beginning to see within the medical industry is the amazing potential AI and automation brings — the potential to save people precious time, money, and most importantly, an improvement in people’s health and mortality rates. Let’s start off with an obvious one — practice management software can now automate most of the boring day-to-day operations, such as billing, accessing patient records, and similar.
From digital dentistry to Bioprinting of organs, artificial intelligence is revolutionizing how dentists and medical doctors help people live healthier, more productive lives. Scientists have even gone as far as to Bioprint a human jaw bone replacement.
Sharon Guynup, a writer for National Geographic, states:
“Some advances will allow initial scanning to be done at home or at a community health clinic with a smartphone. These technologies will democratize dental care, allowing quick diagnosis of basic problems for people anywhere — even those who live in remote areas or in places where there are few dentists. Ultimately, someone living in a developing country could upload their information and get the same initial analysis as a New Yorker who sees a high-end Madison Avenue dentist.
With the advent of these techno-innovations, basic imaging and other diagnostics won’t need to be done by highly-trained professionals. Soon, technologists will become an integral part of a dental practice, and dentists will focus on the complex, difficult procedures that require their expertise. This should ultimately lower costs.”
Automated vending machines taking over China
Thanks to a new trend started by Japan, a new generation of vending machines that take payments via consumers’ smartphones has paved the way for cashierless convenience stores. In Japan alone, automated sales via vending machines totals over $60 billion yearly.
It was just last year that Amazon launched their new “cashier-free” convenience store, Amazon-Go, in Seattle, Washington. And they have promised to change how the world shops forever. Using computer vision and sensors, the Amazon-Go store uses AI and automation to detect what you are purchasing. All that is required is to scan in with your smartphone as you enter the store. The store does the rest. And although you feel like you are “shoplifting,” you are actually being watched by more cameras than you could ever imagine being in one place.
Resistance is futile
When I look at how fast AI and automation is taking over the world (for me, in a good way), I can’t help but be reminded of the Star Trek episode involving the Borg, who were a race of sentient beings whose goal was to turn every living creature in the universe into cyborgs. I used to fantasize about what I would do if faced with such a proposition. My thought? It wouldn’t be too bad to be a cyborg.
Artificial intelligence and automation are our reality. And though I doubt we will ever become like the Borg, this type of technology will take getting used to by us humans. There is no reason to fear it — it’s already here. Resistance is futile.
Philip Piletic is a writer and managing editor at Techloot.co.uk — please visit his Linkedin page to find out more about Philip.