Jul 4th 2017

All hail our robotic overlords?

What’s your plan for when Skynet becomes a reality?

I reckon it’ll happen one day. It could be a result of spending my formative years watching The Terminator films on loop. Or perhaps it’s due to the cumulative, and potentially irrational, fear we all seem to share towards AI and automation. Either way it’s less of an ‘if’ and more of a ‘when’ for me, which made the recent results of ARM’s research into this subject all the more surprising.

Apparently, the tides are turning and we’re all becoming more accepting of artificial intelligence. ARM’s results show that 61% of us reckon AI will have a positive impact on our lives (clearly they’ve not seen The Terminator).

Over half would let a self-driving car ferry them around, and two-thirds are in favour of having AI in charge of home security. I’m a petrolhead with absolutely no desire to make an (inevitably hackable) internet-connected device an integral part of my front door, so I’m clearly not the target market here. But I find it interesting that attitudes are starting to shift in such a way.

One of the biggest resistance points to AI and automation thus far has been the perceived impact it’ll have on our careers. We’ve all seen the headlines suggesting millions will be resigned to the scrap heap when robots sweep in and take our jobs. It’s an issue that’s been raised across the board – even in PR. I’m not fully convinced.

While there’s no doubt AI will impact some sectors more than others, and automation will have a big role to play in transforming industries such as manufacturing, I’m a big believer that when one door closes another typically opens. Knowledge will become more of a commodity at all levels of industry and while there’s a strong chance that AI will take away jobs with one (robotic) hand, it’ll create new ones with the other.

If nothing else, someone will need to develop the code. Someone else has to run diagnostics and ensure automated systems won’t step out of line. And one of us squishy human-types will be needed to drive the creative direction of companies that place artificial intelligence at the centre of their new business models.

Until Skynet does become self-aware and the machines do start to take over, AI is only going to do good things for us. In fact, most of us are exposed to this technology on a daily basis without necessarily realising it; from buying stuff off Amazon to binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, and by using facial recognition tools on Facebook or Siri on our iPhones.

Regardless of your views on artificial intelligence, we’re all on the train now and it’s showing no signs of stopping. AI is getting bigger and better every day and it’s only going to grow, and grow, and grow. But that shouldn’t strike fear into our hearts. It’s an opportunity, not a death sentence (although try telling that to John Connor).

That said, on the off chance I’ve got this very wrong, allow me to get in early and butcher a few classic lines from The Simpsons: There is no stopping them. They’ll soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.


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