Robots and The Workforce of The Future
If robotic innovation advances rapidly, in 5 to 10 years time, a lot of what we do today at work will change. Soon, our professional lives will be impacted by software robots who can work a lot faster and who are smart enough to perform a whole range of tasks. How much will companies bet on this digital workforce and what will be the human to robots ratio in 10 years? But, more importantly - are we set for extinction? Is the human worker officially an endangered species? Read below the answers to these questions provided by Wiliam Bognar, Product Manager of UiPath, at Touch Digital Summit 2019.
UiPath is a leading robotic process automation vendor providing a complete software platform to help organizations efficiently automate business processes. They're probably fast-track to becoming one of the few decker cores, with billions of dollars in valuation.
Wiliam was talking about what robots can do and how they are going to affect our future. Because it will happen. These robots are going to be soon on all of our computers and desks.
Robots as the Fourth Industrial Revolution
We have all seen how software, hardware and computers evolved during the past 30-40 years. After the invention of the computer, it basically replaced paper. We do the same tasks, but do it in digital format (with keyboard and monitor) instead. So in terms of evolution, we changed the way we do things. What we need is to spark creativity, put people to do meaningful jobs and do it pretty soon.
Robots won't actually replace anyone, they will augment our potential - it’s a media hype that humans will be replaced by robots, but in reality, the media always likes to present the negative stuff first. These robots are going to actually increase our potential, make it more effective. Where we are headed is the age of robotic symbiosis which means that our mission is to put a robot in every house, on every desk, every computer.
How would that work? - You can think of it as coming to work and not having to do the extremely boring stuff that a lot of people do now. You won't get replaced by a robot itself, but you will have a personal assistant that you can delegate all these tasks that you do on a daily basis. The first step is thinking in flow. A lot of people want to automate their processes. To be clearer, for example, a sales compensation department needs to have some calculations done on the numbers monthly in order to pay the people that actually do the sales and that's in most corporations nowadays. By splitting companies into departments, which are getting bigger and bigger, there's very little collaboration between them. So with the help of UiPath, they automate this certain process. What they end up doing is that they have some experts in that particular field and automate a very small thing. But what they never think of is when you actually make a sale, the whole thing goes into all the departments without having any human interaction. That's the difference between a flow and a snapshot.
Robots can help us do good, but ignorance will never attract progress
Many people think that robots are going to steal jobs, make us redundant, obsolete, that we are going to get to a point where there won't be any humans in a company. But is it a good thing or a bad one?
What robots affect now is a lot of jobs. Let’s see how it could be. Jobs are of great importance, one of the main pillars of psychological health. As a fact, the World Health Organization predicts about 1 in 2 people to suffer from depression in the next 10-20 years. These rates have gone up a lot in the past 20 years. So what people are doing at their jobs is affecting them in a very deep way. Actually half of our wake time is spent at work. It also matters that half of the jobs are meaningless and stressful based on a survey in the USA, people don't really find any meaning in their work. We thought it was a very good idea to start separating our work and having people that were very specialized. By doing that, we separated people, stopped communication between departments and also it stopped us from seeing a very clear big picture. Because of that, we got to a point where out of fear, the media blames robots that they're gonna steal the jobs.
Do you want your kids to go to a university like most and then spend the next years moving numbers and files? Instead, we can actually use the robots to lower depression and this is only one of the things that we can use them for.
How can robots make a change on our education?
Another very sensible thing that we can do is actually use robots to empower our education. Our kids go to school every day, but basically they go to school to become industrial workers [because the educational system has not changed since the time of the industrial revolution]. It is true that it has evolved obviously, but we're still preparing kids to become industrial workers. The difference is they won't go to Ford or to other manufacturers and do some very repetitive things that they do every day, we now put them in front of computers to do the same things.
Why not teach kids to be creative, to collaborate because if you think about it, these are two of the things that are very hard to accomplish for robots, for example. Humans basically test a type of intelligence that is soon to become obsolete. Most of the stuff that you learned and know how to do, you can do it with the help of robots and it's $10,000 a year now, in 5 years it’s probably going to be almost free. We have AIs doing these types of intelligence - calculations, linguistics, but we don't have AIs that know how to collaborate, be creative, empower each other.
So it's important to figure out how we're going to use robots, how we're going to use all these advances like AI and robotics to actually improve the educational system.
Other things we can use robots for:
Climate - As we all know, our climate is a very sensitive subject. You have a lot of green cars and initiatives that seem promising, but the problem today is that we need a lot of people to make a change. For example, Toyota is really keen on launching everything from green cars to self-driving cars. At this point, they need another 120 thousand people to make that dream come true and you know it's not that you can spawn so many people from nowhere, especially in a country like Japan where the demographics are not looking great, they're declining. Furthermore, less and less people want to get into jobs. So they don’t want to get a robot to replace three people, instead they want to get robots to free people that can do other things.
Direct investments better. You can think of it as innovation vs. subsidies. If you look into it, you'll find out that a lot of what we do today is based on subsidies, so you can think of it like subsidies for green cars, for buying renewable energy, but the problem with subsidies is that they don't work and never did. When Ford invented a car, he didn't just invent a faster horse, he changed the paradigm completely and it's going to be the same with renewable energy. Right now we need innovation, we don't need to subsidize the things that are not working.
As an example, in 2017 the world itself paid about 100 billion dollars for subsidies for green energy and whatever is related to green energy (cars, different factories, etc). The problem is that not a lot has changed as you can see. At the same time, for example, nuclear fusion is probably a few years away from becoming a reality. What you probably don't know is that it is probably going to provide free energy for all of us. The US wants to build a big nuclear fusion facility to start looking into it and how we could use it. As a matter of fact, they could use a robot to calculate that instead of spending 100 billion dollars on something that doesn't work, maybe we can pay sixty billion dollars on innovation and solve everyone's problem.
How robots can change the standard of living?
It's important to figure out a way to bring more money into lower-income countries and robotics can be it. Nowadays, there are about four income groups in the world itself. It can be said that if you spend more than $30 a day, you're in the most advanced, highest income group in the world, but in the lowest ones money spent daily is less than two to four dollars. When you think about it, from having two dollars a day to four dollars a day, it is not a great difference, but you start burning a lot less fossil fuels because you get the energy from different sources.
Our families - The reality today is that half of the marriages end up with a divorce and a lot of the time it's because of lack of time, availability and commitment. So what would happen if we start using robots and go from working eight hours a day to four hours, which means spending more time with our family and building things that are meaningful for us.
Our health - Robots can actually augment medical workers and we've seen a lot of fuss about going into data-driven medicine and AI. Robots are a means of carrying data and sending stuff around. For example, suppose getting a CT scan. Now we just rely on the advice of one, two, three doctors when we're assessing our health. What if we move towards the future and rely on the advice of 100 000, for example? AI and medicine is complicated to do at this point, but robotics is also a way to deliver AI.