To all the gadget and machine enthusiasts out there, grab your chance to encounter the Todai Robot. The machine which cannot read or write, perform mathematics beyond the basic level and even doesn’t understand anything. This is the recent report as per the TED talk, held from earlier this year.
But even after this, the robot had managed to perform in the top 20 percent of students on an entrance exam at the University of Tokyo, which is considered to be the Harvard of Japan.
Now this display of “intelligence” raises alarms for the future of work. For instance, if a machine can outscore thousands of students without truly understanding anything, it definitely means the end of thousands of jobs.
The Todai Robot, for example, was able to write a 600-word essay on maritime trade in the 17th century better than most students. For this, Noriko Arai, AI expert and member of the team that built the robot, explains in her TED Talk, that this wasn’t because it possesses intelligence, but rather because it can recognize the keywords.
So Arai added that “Our robot took the sentences from the textbooks and Wikipedia, combined them together, and optimized it to produce an essay without understanding a thing. We humans can understand the meaning. That is something which is very, very lacking in AI.”
Also, over the last year, there has been an increasing concern over how smart robots are becoming and the eventual eradication of certain industries. However, most of the focus has been on the loss of blue collar jobs.
But according to David Lee, vice president of innovation at UPS, it’s not that just the jobs like a factory worker and truck driver are at risk.
In his TED Talk titled, “Why Jobs of the Future Won’t Feel Like Work,” Lee added that even the smartest, highest-paid people will be affected by the “tremendous gains in the quality of analysis and decision-making because of machine learning.”
When the automobile first came out, it had put people out of jobs, such as those in the horseshoe business. However, jobs were created in other areas, like building highways, creating suburbs and the like.
But what differentiates AI’s current effect in the workplace from job evolution of the past is the quick pace at which robots are advancing. A recent study from the research firm Forrester predicts that over the next ten year, 25 million jobs will be lost.
To this Lee also added that “To put that in perspective, that’s three times as many jobs lost in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Even though most jobs left the factory decades ago, we still hold on to this factory mindset of standardization and de-skilling. We still define jobs around procedural tasks… We’ve created narrow job definitions like cashier, loan processor or taxi driver and then asked people to form entire careers around these singular tasks”.
Lee also had much to say when he added that, In order to out-innovate and outsmart robots in the workplace, humans must begin by changing the nature of work. Future jobs must be more focused on the skills that a person brings to work rather than rote tasks that a person does.
For example, he states that although robots are great at repetitive and constrained work, “human beings have an amazing ability to bring together capability with creativity when faced with problems that we’ve never seen before.”
Lastly, he concluded that “By rediscovering what makes us uniquely human, we can create a new generation of jobs that are human-centric and that allows us to unlock “hidden talents and passions. It’s when every day brings a little bit of a surprise, that we have designed work for humans and not for robots.”