Explore the future now – Robots at work!

22 March, 2016 by Raluca Muja

Imagine a world where you wake up in the morning to the tunes of your favourite radio station and the smell of toast and coffee. You walk into your kitchen where you are greeted by Eva, your personal cook, who has prepared your breakfast and placed it in front of you as you sat down. She then poured your glass of orange juice and left the kitchen wishing you a good day. You skim the news headlines as you sip on your coffee and save a couple of articles to read later. After breakfast you head back to your bedroom, grab your suit and look for a freshly ironed shirt. Alex left them all hanging by the door – you put them back in the wardrobe.

You walk outside and greet Jim, the porter who says your car is ready. You sit down in the back seat and get on the phone to Mike, your assistant. He gives you a run through today’s calendar, your meetings and the clients you will see later on.

At lunch, you order sushi and get it delivered to the office. Mike reminds you that it is your aunt’s birthday next week and sends you a list of flowers and chocolate gift packs. You ask him to pick one and have it delivered to her place on the morning of her birthday.

In the evening, you meet a couple of friends at the local bar over mojitos. Jim, the bartender makes the best ones!

The world described above doesn’t seem so different from today’s world, does it? Well, it probably isn’t, if Eva, Alex, Mike and Jim were not robots.

Although for some this might be hard to believe, this world is not that far into the future. In fact, it is much closer than most expect, and the reason for this is the exponential advancing of technology.

To make the concept of exponential growth easier to grasp, let’s imagine you are sitting at the top level Camp Nou in Barcelona. It seats up to 100.000 people. Let’s imagine someone puts one single drop of water in the middle of the football pitch, and that drop of water doubles in volume every second. After one second there will be two drops; two seconds later, four drops and so on. You start noticing the puddle after about 10 seconds, it stretches across a foot or so, three litres of water. Your buddy who’s good with maths realizes you should probably start walking towards the exit, but you tell him there’s no rush, it’s just a puddle.

How long do you think you have to get out before you drown? 30 minutes? Think again!

The puddle is exponentially growing and it needs not more than 50 seconds to fill up the stadium. One single drop turns into 1 million litres in 30 seconds. Wait another 10 seconds and that is now 1 thousand times more water. If you are not out by now, it’s too late.

The exponential development of technology is something that allows us to understand how AlphaGo, a robot, has recently beaten Lee Se-dol, one of the best living Go players in 4 of their 5 encounters. Lee himself expected to lose one at most. The process by which AlphaGo reached this level of knowledge is what we refer to deep learning, or how technology moves from teaching routine repetitive tasks (like ironing, making coffee) to true artificial intelligence (driving a car, playing Go, making decisions about your aunt’s birthday gift).

It is therefore not surprising to start wondering which jobs will be replaced by robots in the future and how this will influence humans, companies, governments, etc.

Will manufacturing be completely run by robots? Will Michelin star restaurants be driven out of business a new AI, like Eva, who will be able to predict what we want to eat and cook it for us in our own homes, with locally sourced products delivered by drones? Going even further, will GPs be out of a job when a newly invented body scanner immediately tells us what is wrong with a sick person and refers them to a highly specialized doctor?

These questions are not easy or comfortable, but nonetheless they require exploration sooner rather than later, as technology develops exponentially.

Join the Digital Social Medial Leadership Forum on March 30th in Buckley Building for a discussion with speakers and panellists from Deloitte UK, IBM Watson, Vidrona and London Futurists, to explore the positive and negative impacts that robotics could have on your company and industry sector and on society at large. Explore the future now!


If you are interested in attending the Robots at Work event please contact Raluca Muja.