There’s a fundamental problem with AI and automation today, especially in the US.
Broadly speaking, we’re viewing them from two diametrically opposing perspectives:
- A labor-saving opportunity to make shareholders happy, and a potential bonanza for tech investors.
- A job killer that will possibly throw millions onto the street over the next decade and beyond.
This is really unfortunate, because for AI, automation, robotics, and other disciplines, the real power is the ability to solve a great myriad of problems that have long vexed humanity and could be truly transformative to us as individuals, organizations, communities, and businesses.
The essential problem is that there’s been a lack of lucidly convincing thought leadership, and way, way too much focus on the potentially massive windfall for investors, or the fear of eliminating jobs.
Another related issue is the hype over AI and automation. Every year, the tech industry seems to pick a darling for everyone to direction their attention and cash. Five-plus years ago, it was the general concept of cloud computing. About four years ago, big data and predictive analytics. Three years ago, mobile apps and the Internet of Things. Two years ago, it was ephemeral and novel social media platforms. Last year: bots and voice-activated assistants, plus a healthy dose of VR.
And this year? Well, no need to answer that. It’s become clear that in 2017, AI is the clear focus for startup investors.
AI and robotics have been getting huge amounts of attention and interest over the past few years, largely because of advances in technology that have now made it possible to develop, test, and sell products much more cost effectively than ever before.
And automation has long-been coveted for the possibilities it brings in optimizing efficiency and allowing professionals, organizations, and business interests to be better at what they do. At the same time they also can lead to new possibilities that can benefit themselves, their users, they customers, and even society in general.
There’s nothing fundamentally new about artificial intelligence, predictive algorithms, robotics, etc. They’ve been around for years – decades to be more exact. In Japan, for example, automation has been actively engineered and adopted for manufacturing since the 80s. It’s no wonder they’ve long been the leaders in robotics innovation.
The real change today is that we can now rely on affordable tools to facilitate much faster and more efficient R&D with readily accessible software development tools, off-the-shelf computing, and additive manufacturing processes, as opposed to relying on expensive customization.
The promises of AI and automation are truly there. Someone needs to stand up and really sell the promise they bring to us as humans.
We need far more reassuring voices that go well past the hype and doom.
Otherwise, this bipolar discourse over making investors rich while killing jobs will ultimately make automation an overly hyped reality laced with negative publicity.