Envisioning the future of Automation


We were all expecting the next few years to hold bold transformation in the way we work and do business, but no one was expecting the sudden cataclysmic change that happened this year as a result of COVID-19. The worldwide pandemic has forever reshaped the landscape of the global economy and industry.

Where automation has been a topic of hot debate and humanitarian concern, especially in developing countries where the majority of the labour force is unskilled, it is now starting to be seen as they only bulletproof way forward for many industries. Lockdown has forced numerous smaller businesses into liquidation, and globally unemployment has reached staggering new heights. The question to ask is: If automation had been more widely accepted and implemented, would the impact of the economy, and on individual businesses, be as severe as it is presently? Is it not time to re-evaluate business structures to ensure that companies can survive and endure a global pandemic?

Sir James Dyson, founder of Dyson Ltd, says: “Automation should not be feared and will improve our lives”. He believes that instead of being the death knell for jobs, it will rather create more jobs and opportunities for skilled engineers and IT experts to create new technology to support and further develop robotics and automation. This view is shared by leaders across all industries, including CQ Net Management, who wrote an article titled: The future of work is Hybrid Intelligence: How Artificial Intelligence and Human Intelligence support each other.


The future of work is Hybrid Intelligence

“Hybrid Intelligence combines human and Artificial Intelligence to collectively achieve superior results and learn from each other. It will be a dominant workplace model in the digital age.” - quoted from their blog post. Brains and AI function on different algorithms; where AI excels at finding complex patterns in huge data sets, the human brain is better at applying knowledge in decision making and creativity. AI has difficulty in adjusting to change or dynamic environments, where the human brain uses common sense and functions on general intelligence that is absent in present AI application.

As automation takes over tasks that are structed and driven by a strict set of rules, or purely repetitive (mechanical), future jobs for humans will become more complex and multi-disciplinary. Skill sets need to include advanced innovation to problem solving and lateral thinking.

David Epstein explains it well in his book ‘Range”. He expands on the concept of importance of diversity in experiences by showing that specialisation is helpful only within ‘kind environments’, those in which information is predictable and available, and feedback is immediate and not affected by human behaviour. In ‘wicked environments’, where decisions are based on judgements and feedback is influenced by people, and inaccurate or inadequate information, as in business environments, a more generalist approach is required.

It was inevitable that workplace environments were going to change over time, but the Corona Virus has necessitated this happen a lot sooner than it normally would have done. Brick and mortar places of business have been replaced with the digital platform. Although initially daunting, it has opened a whole new world with exciting opportunities for many. Business structures have changed.

 ‘Outsourcing’, ‘remote work’, ‘consulting’, ‘self-employment’, ‘automation’, ‘online meetings’, are words that have replaced ‘teams’, ‘team building’, ‘workshops’, ‘boardroom’. What was strange a few months ago, is now commonplace. Automation is not something that only factories and manufacturers think about any longer. It is foremost on every mind as they go about their ‘new normal’ trying to fit as many diverse experiences and practices into their expanded jobs as possible.

Automating tasks is not only going to bulletproof companies, allowing businesses to operate under potential future pandemic situations, but it will allow remote offices to run seamlessly affording people the time they need to require more skills to remain ahead of the curve and be a proactive and integral part of this ever-changing society we find ourselves in. It is for this and a multitude of other reasons that the automation industry will always find itself in a positive place, moving forward and upwards.

This article was supplied by Hanli Goncalves, Managing Director, MyFuture 4.0 Summit

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