It is becoming increasingly clear that automation is on the minds of everyone: whether you’re a politician, a business owner, an employee, a student or a retiree. It’s a prolific topic in the media and there are many scepticisms and optimisms about the inevitability of the technology.
It is human nature to move forward and progress, we do it very well in some areas and less well in others. Technology is one area where we thrive; the advancements of our technological capabilities are developing at an increasing rate and everyone affected is starting to benefit from digital, interconnective and automated innovations.
How did we get here?
The industrial revolution in Britain was made possible by technological breakthrough: tractors revolutionised agriculture, assembly lines changed the manufacturing industry and steam power connected the country. The industrial revolution brought wealth and power to Britain through increased productivity in the production of goods, but while some people benefited from this prosperity, others did not: wealth was not shared equally, working conditions were poor and pollution produced from the burning of fossil fuels diminished the health of the work force and the people who lived in the towns and cities.
Today, we are experiencing a new kind of revolution. Digital innovations have connected us on a global scale, we are able to trade, share knowledge and information in real-time and communicate virtually without having to leave the home or office. While todays innovations have made life easier for most of us, there is a fear of what lies ahead with the development of automation and AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions.
Don’t fear change. Prepare for it.
We must learn from the past and take responsible steps to prepare for future change to ensure everyone benefits from the prosperity that automation can provide, and mitigate the risk of negative economic, social, environmental and technological impacts.
Automation will have an extraordinary impact on productivity which will increase as machines learn, become more intelligent and efficient. This will not remove the need for people if we apply the technology in the right way. We will have more free time to develop and focus on the things that really matter to us on a personal level, creating a much healthier work-life balance.
The prosperity that automation brings must be shared. Imagine a society that could work less and be better off financially? This is a strong argument for such initiatives as universal income. We would also benefit by taking the time to interact more regularly with people face to face. We could eradicate loneliness for the elderly, obliterate homelessness and tackle social injustice, if we had more time for each other. Automation doesn’t mean that people become superfluous, it means we become more important. Machines think logically and objectively, while humans have the capability to be creative, show compassion and take risks to defy the odds. The way we use new technologies will determine whether the impacts will be positive or negative.
All automated solutions will one day run on renewable energy. Governments around the world, for example, are working with the transportation industry to reduce our carbon footprint. Green autonomous cars are starting to make an appearance, we just need to make them more cost effective, increase performance and improve the infrastructure to make them a more sustainable solution. Imagine no congestion on the motorway because each car is moving in sync with the other, exchanging data in real-time through an intelligent network, quicker than you or I can blink.
Technology will develop even faster. Intelligent machines will produce greater advancements in technology for the benefit of humans. However, it will be the responsibility of humankind to decide what is in our best interest and set the parameters to ensure we mitigate the risks of relinquished control.
What will be the next industrial revolution?
How will we adapt?
Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: we are in the driving seat. We determine our own destiny and will prepare for the future by implementing control measures to make technology work for us, in a responsible way.