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Threat or Opportunity? A dilemma for Humankind.

By Sambridhi Shrestha

We live in an era when the advancement in technology is racing to create something more progressive than what has been created. The new innovation outcasts existing technology with an upgraded version. If we look back, all these innovations and advancements have been human replacement.

There is no debate on the fact that advancement in technology and automation has brought the world where it stands today, nor can we deny that without the help of innovation, this world would be a better place to live in.

“Give and Take”… one of the simplest ideas on which the world functions.

For such huge innovation, the human race has had to compromise the environment, health issues, and other issues that have been buried under the rock.

Contrary to that, voicing out only the compromises would not justify the effort and the mighty brains behind it.  It is undeniable that if modernization and automation had not entered the game we might have still been in the Stone Age.

There is a very good reason why companies choose automation and robotics over human labor. A graph from 1990-2010 shows that the cost of automation has decreased, whereas the cost of labor has increased. This explains why companies pivot towards automation and robotics.

If we turn the pages from 2010 to the year 2020 we see a different potential and demand for the automation and robotics industries. 2020, the year when a pandemic, COVID-19, decided to hit the Earth and has proven to be more catastrophic than we expected it to be by leaving a death trail. In a span of four months around 1.6 billion people lost their jobs or are on the verge of losing their job. Automation and robotics have become more obligatory now more than ever since the contagious disease can spread rapidly.

This transformation can be disadvantageous to the human workforce as many jobs will be replaced with automation. Just like in the game of dominoes, job loss will be the first tile to fall down followed by the economy, living standard, mental and physical health, and many other consequences that we are yet to discover.

In 2016, 36 million jobs, which is more than 70%, were at risk of being a target of automation. Additionally, the same research anticipated that by 2030, 36% of American workers will face exposure to medium level risk to disruptive technologies.

But development requires change and that is foreseeable.

Adjustment to changes leads to enhanced results. In order to survive in this technology-driven economy, a compulsion arises for human resources to be more skilled than before. An entire industry falls under workforce development and this opens new grounds for business. Workforce development produces more skilled and capable human resources who will be suitable for higher paid jobs with higher standards. We cannot assure that this completely solves the problem but it can mitigate the problem and solve a tentative 70% while the rest of the 30% might still struggle. 

Even though workforce development may help, there is a bigger challenge that will intimidate the workforce, artificial intelligence (AI). Today, in the year 2020 we have started realizing that AI is more powerful than the human mind. Most companies have started to deploy AI because it has proved to be more efficient, reliable, and accurate. Most of the companies are looking for an alternative approach which requires the least human contact.

Amidst the pandemic, some sectors are still growing such as Fintech which is a positive news but AI can also be challenging in this sector. In the next 10 years, businesses will introduce sophisticated AI assistants designed to be proactive, predict consumer needs, and interact on an emotional level. Experts claim that only 5% of customer interactions would require human intervention, but retaining a “human touch” will be a key challenge for emerging FinTech companies who want to avoid customers feeling like they are dealing with a faceless entity and to convince clients (especially older clients) to leave their traditional banks.

The debate is still on whether automation and robotics are hidden threats or opportunities. In the next decade, we might be able to see the weightage of how progressive or destructive it is to humankind.

 But what if we are waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel but just like the ever-growing technology and innovation, the tunnel is also ever-growing?

What will the human race do then?

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