What is the problem that needs to be solved?
Since the Industrial Revolution, the production of consumer goods has been able to become cheaper, faster, and more efficient than ever. Although new technology has forced many people into unemployment, many more jobs were created as a result. However, with the increasing speed at which technology improves, automation is “replacing people faster than the economy can create jobs” (Brown, 2012, p. 24). Current generation robots are now able to perform tasks that were unthinkable in the past. In warehouses, item picking robots are now capable of the cognitive task of identifying the object in front of it and correctly organizing it, using machine vision technology based similarly on the Xbox Kinect, called PrimeSense, to detect and analyze information about the world in mere milliseconds (Ford, 2015, p. 4).
Source 1: Automation vs. Jobs
Brown, A. (2012, April). Automation vs Jobs. Mechanical Engineering, 22-27.
Automation vs Jobs focuses on the rapid pace of technological improvement and its impact on the future economy. According to Moore’s law, available computing power roughly doubles every 18 months. And with the advent of artificial intelligence, machines are reaching the point in which they are surpassing humans in terms of cognitive ability. IBM’s artificial intelligence supercomputer, named Watson for its goal of surpassing human intelligence, has been applied to the medical field in order to provide diagnoses of illnesses faster and more accurately than humans are capable of. Autonomous driving, which was originally thought to need decades of research in order to reach a basic level of functionality, reached a level in 2007 where autonomous cars were able to complete the DARPA Urban Challenge, successfully driving on a 60 mile test course without any human intervention. With the exponential growth in computing power, digital machinery is becoming capable of replacing both low-skilled and high-skilled workers alike.
Source 2: Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
Ford, M. (2015). Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Modern technology has reached a point in which the cognitive ability of computers is as capable or more capable than the humans that it has replaced. In warehouses, item picking robots with machine vision technology can pick and sort boxes and products of various colors and sizes with the same dexterity as humans, but at a much faster rate than humans and without the drawback of needing breaks or refueling times. In the category of white-collar jobs, software written by Northwestern University called StatsMonkey is being used to generate statistical reports of baseball games and provide a natural language summary of its reports. After the creation of StatsMonkey, the same team from Northwestern University applied the ideas from StatsMonkey to a new and much more powerful artificial intelligence engine named “Quill” that is now being used by media outlets such as Forbes in order to generate news articles, businesses to analyze financial reports, and the CIA to ingest the massive amounts of data collected every second. The capabilities of systems such as “Quill” have not only replaced humans but have far surpassed anything that humans could possibly ever achieve.