03 January 2017
Shaun Westgate, Managing Director

What does the future hold as machine learning & AI gain momentum?

Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence

With the development of machine learning and AI, there is now more and more automation in our daily lives. Computers can now drive cars, book tables in restaurants and trade on the stock exchange. We now have machine learning algorithms that can write their own programmes based on what they discover. These technological advancements are an incredible achievement, a clear illustration of the vast capability of the human race. But are we really thinking about the implications of these advancements?

What we are starting to see is routine jobs now being handled by machines and you don’t need to look very far. One of the most obvious examples is in the supermarket where you can 'self checkout'. Clearly, the technology has further to go so the shopper doesn’t need to keep asking for help, but we are not far away from supermarkets with little or no staff. The fast food industry is also ripe for automation where routine tasks can be handled by machines again, with little need for help from staff. The automated answering message you encounter when you call your bank, utility company or the cinema also means far fewer people are now needed to man the traditional call centre. Public transport will be another area where humans will soon be surplus to requirements – the first driverless buses will start on routes in Singapore in the early part of 2017. Click here

These examples are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. As the technology develops there will be a big impact on the workforce required in the fast food industry, in all areas of manufacturing, in both high street and online retail and in automated distribution centres, to name just a few. It won't only be routine jobs that are affected – machines will start to make their presence felt in the health, education and financial sectors. This technological transition has the potential to displace thousands of workers, which would have a huge impact on the economy, particularly if job losses mean that nobody has any money to buy anything – this is a scenario we must avoid!

Technological advancement is inevitable but we must not let it be detrimental to our future. We need to develop a new existence where more automation serves to create work and purpose. Our greatest minds need to be employed to structure a new world where machines are part of a positive future, not our demise. What we must not forget is that we can be masters of our own destiny and choose not to interact with machines, particularly if it is going to have a detrimental effect on our future. It is important that we do not sleep walk into the future without realising that real human interaction will always be the cornerstone for all communication, both in our personal lives and in all areas of commerce.

As consumers we can now demand that we interact with engaging and knowledgeable people – imagine phoning your bank and an actual real person answers the phone, knows your profile and is able to help you quickly and efficiently. In an increasingly digitalised world, brands and businesses will now have an opportunity to stand out in their market places, by connecting in a real way with their customers, using honest human dialogue full of empathy and emotional intelligence – something that can never be replaced by machines.


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