Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be coming to a workplace near you, and people have mixed feelings about it.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) says technologies that blur “the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” are ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to WEF, this revolution could result in the loss of up to 5.1 million jobs over the next five years.
The news isn’t all bad though. AI and robots have the potential to enhance, rather than replace, jobs around the world. These technologies are positioned to become a key component of many professions, increasing efficiency and accuracy.
As the workplace becomes more high-tech, it makes sense to look at how the increasing use of robotics and AI will impact different professions.
The Original Robotic Industry – Manufacturing
The first industry to see robotic innovation was manufacturing, and the use of robots has only evolved over time.
Early on, robotic manufacturing was large and clumsy. As a result, these robots could only perform tasks that didn’t require much dexterity or skill. Additionally, early robots were too dangerous to work directly with humans. Despite these challenges, manufacturers realized that robotics could make production more cost effective, and engineers started to improve robots.
Increased intelligence – Robots were originally only suited for unskilled tasks. However, the latest generation of robots benefits from research into artificial neural networks. New robots can now understand and learn from images, videos, and audio. Some robots even have a rudimentary ability to reason.
Increased safety – In the past, robots were composed of a series of mindless swinging parts that could easily take out nearby humans. To protect workers, robots had to be bolted down and fenced off. However, robots are now being built with sensors, like those found in collision detection systems in cars, allowing them to sense and avoid humans who cross their path.
Increased dexterity – Once limited to heavy work, robots have now become refined enough to perform jobs that were typically reserved for humans. Jobs as delicate as assembling consumer electronics are no longer outside of the capabilities of manufacturing robotics.
Thanks in part to these advances, the number of orders for manufacturing robots has almost tripled in recent years. Today, about 59% of manufacturers now use some form of robotics in their processes.
Some workers might not like the increased use of robots in manufacturing, but there are many benefits.
The increase in robotics in this area can help smaller manufacturers compete with their larger counterparts. Robotics could also reduce labor costs enough to encourage manufacturers to bring jobs back to the U.S. from countries like China and Mexico. Although traditional manufacturing jobs might not return, there will be an increase in higher paying positions such as managers and programmers.
Robo-Attorney? AI in Law
The legal profession has undergone some massive changes in the last decade or so, and law firms and attorneys have been forced to adapt. One of these adaptations includes the use of AI.
AI Software – One form of AI software that’s making waves is ROSS. The software can look up cases instantly, and then offer legal advice about the situation at hand – all in plain English. It uses the supercomputing power of IBM Watson to search through massive amounts of data. ROSS takes only seconds to do what takes humans hours. The software is so effective that the law firm Baker & Hostetler has announced that it will be using ROSS for bankruptcy cases.
It seems that ROSS could be the ideal solution for the roughly 80% of Americans who can’t afford a lawyer. Since ROSS doesn’t require a salary, law firms could charge lower legal fees and make their services accessible to more people.
The idea of charging lower fees might make some attorneys cringe, but AI software can actually help attorneys in a legal market that’s saturated with out-of-work and underpaid lawyers. AI can lower the cost of entry into the market, and allow attorneys to spend their time crafting strategy and winning cases, instead of researching case law and statutes.
Chatbots and Apps – In addition to AI software, the use of chatbots and apps is also changing the legal profession. An app called DoNotPay uses an algorithm to decipher everyday language and it’s helping people appeal parking tickets. DoNotPay is off to an impressive start. Since its release last fall, the app has helped overturn 160,000 out of 250,000 parking tickets. That’s a success rate of 64%.
Given these trends, the use of AI in law will only continue to grow. In the future, AI may also help attorneys draft documents and craft arguments. However, don’t expect to see a robot attorney in the courtroom. Legally, AI will have to stay in a behind the scenes role.
The Robot Will See You Now – AI and Robotics in Medicine
In the US alone, over 40,000 patients die in the ICU each year after being misdiagnosed. This sad fact makes sense when you consider that there are over 10,000 known human diseases and even the most intelligent human mind can only hold so much information. AI-driven apps have been created help to solve the problem of misdiagnosis.
AI-Driven Apps – One healthcare app, known as Babylon, comes out of the U.K. Currently, the app offers video consultations with doctors, but it will offer much more in the future. After its commercial launch, Babylon will review a patient’s symptoms and medical history as well as data from wearables, and then check it against a database to offer appropriate medical advice.
IBM Watson is also entering the medical world. With a focus on cancer, Watson can use patient information and an enormous database of medical journals and texts to suggest an accurate diagnosis in only 10 minutes.
Current regulations don’t allow apps to make formal diagnoses, but apps can still suggest a course of action, including recommending immediate medical attention in the case of more severe symptoms. Basically, AI-based apps are designed to work in conjunction with physicians, rather than replace them.
Robot-Assisted Surgery – Speaking of working together, robot-assisted surgery is another technology that’s enhancing a surgeon’s ability to do their job. One of the most well-known robotic tools is the da Vinci Surgical System, and it’s approved to perform surgeries for cardiology, gynecology, urology, and pediatrics.
Surgeons control robotic arms to perform minimally invasive surgery. These robotic instruments offer superior dexterity and precision, allowing surgeons to perform complex surgeries with only a few tiny incisions.
Since the System received FDA approval in 2000, surgeons have performed more than 3 million surgeries. This number will only increase as more surgeons embrace the idea of using robotics to enhance their surgical skills.
A New Way of Working
As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, some workers worry that they will be replaced by a robot. However, there is a more likely scenario for most workers.
Technological advances like AI and robotics will provide more interesting and rewarding jobs. As traditional positions disappear, new job opportunities will appear that incorporate these technologies. While employees will need more training and education to prepare for new roles, continuing education and job training aren’t new concepts for workers. In fact, they’re a large part of what keeps work exciting and fresh.