Freeman Cebu Business

Robots to replace humans?

TRADE FORUM - Chris Malazarte - The Freeman

We have been fascinated by robots that we make stories out of them. Many of these stories humanize these life-like metal contraptions with a persona that of a hero or a villain. And for most of the time, we think of them as merely creations of Hollywood or imagined characters we read in sci-fi novels or comic books. But since the dawn of Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the last two decades, we can’t anymore ignore the possibility that these androids will soon become “mainstream” which will put many of us out of work! Oh em.gee!!! I need an angry emoji here.

Last year, CNBC reported that lawyers could be replaced by machines (This sounds like good news to us and a thumbs down for the legal profession). And no doubt, these robots can also easily pass the bar exams better than those who finished law school for years. But lawyers argue that machines can’t argue in court. Well, how’s that for a humanoid that shuts its mouth but flashes all the court rulings to support its case?

Okay, before I get sued by lawyers that machines are better than them, let’s just take up the medical field. Yes, it is also possible that robots can replace doctors!

Imagine machines that can accurately pinpoint and analyze your medical condition and recommend the best possible treatment or approach your body needs base on your current physical make up and your DNA structure! Not just that, medical robots are already available to perform many things such as preparation of medicines, and soon with 100  percent precision when it comes to surgery on any part of your body including the most difficult part like your brain.

So if the work of a highly paid professional can be done by humanoids what more of those jobs that require no brainwork, say a news reporter? Well, the dame bot “Sophia” which made her reporting debut in Australia surprised newsroom veterans that she can’t only flawlessly jabber news but can talk and even crack jokes! Oh my, that’s a hundred OMGs! Sooner, The Freeman may have to get another columnist to replace me for being so late and too busy to write on this part of the paper. Lol!

On a serious note, however, I was kind of imagining deeply how Google’s “Tacotron” can impact the work of so many people. To some, Tacotron is just another speechware to imitate human communication. Yes, but it is also a very powerful AI text-to-speech bot that can read out news or any book impeccably. Well, I am not afraid what Tacotron can do to faceless reporters on the radio or any disc-jock for that matter, what I am afraid of really is when they will be able to replace call center agents in the future! Tacotron can be programmed to understand questions and can respond like as if you are talking to some customer service guy next to you.  

The need for bots or robots is something that is so certain to take place in the future. The progress of AI technology opens many usage possibilities that will make sci-fi stories a reality. The reality is not about robots being integrated into our lives as helpers or just another human-like appliance to do some things for us. The future of robotics is all about emulating human responses.  And that is something that should worry us. 

I believe that robots will eventually outsmart us in terms of information delivery. And it’s already happening now. We are so dependent of search engines to find the information we need which is making dinosaurs out of many libraries. There will be replacements – and many of these replacements will cost massive displacements and will be necessary to cut costs. Its benefit will be in such a way we get to have efficient service and production of goods less costly as robots only need to be maintained. I am not saying that I am all thumbs up to robots in place of humans. But robots will definitely be crucial to determining competitive advantage.  Thus, it is something we all have to embrace in the future.

But one thing that robots cannot replace is “human experience.” This human experience is something that only us can give by being kind to our customers, to exude an aura of positivity and happiness. To be assisting and helpful in a sincere way.  The human touch is simply irreplaceable that no robot can emulate. That human touch must not only be seen or heard but felt – only humans have the power to deliver that familiar connection. Sincerity, kindness, make all the difference in the future.

Happy New Year!

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