There’s no getting away from the fact that my colleagues get excited by new technology. I’m not just talking about the technologies we have in our portfolio, but also the technologies that our customers are working with on a daily basis such as robots and drones. It’s not unusual to find myself in the office hearing all about just how cool some of this tech is. But I have to confess, as easy as it could be to get swept away by this wave of enthusiasm, I often find myself erring more on the side of caution. Haven’t they read 1984? Did they not see that movie where the robots malfunction and want to destroy the humans? Are they not scared?
And it’s with caution that I digested a news story this week about the latest sub-section the Internet of Things (IoT) that has emerged – The Internet of Robotic Things (IoRT), where intelligent robots operate with relative autonomy.
So who’s approach is the most sane – me or my Technophile colleagues? I decided to take a look at some of the headlines to see if I could settle my nerves at the news. The first story I came across was the news that Adidas are opening a robotics intensive facility to make shoes in America. This is to be based on the one already operating in Germany and promises to create their product more quickly and closer to US consumers. A consumer-centric approach to product creation certainly appeals to my marketing brain, and the ability to quickly personalise a shoe to an individual customer’s foot sounds like consumer nirvana! I’m starting to see the potential benefits.
And then I stumble across the next articles and I’m back to “proceed with caution”. The first headline “Facebook trending featuring fake news hours after humans replaced with robots”. You’ve probably already seen it – in an apparently short sighted move, Facebook fired its human curators from the “trending news” team and replaced them with Robots. This resulted in a number of inaccurate and potentially offensive articles featuring in the “trending news” section. Facebook has claimed that the move means that they can now scale the ”trending section” and also removes human bias. Human bias is something that Facebook has come under fire for in the past but surely the alternative is worse? You only have to read this article about the Robot propaganda machine to step over to my side of the fence to share my concerns about the manipulation of news and ideas that could ensue.
For Facebook it seems that they are somewhat damned if they do and damned if they don’t. For me my conflicting emotions on whether AI is a force for good or not-so-good are perfectly summed up by this video from earlier in the year. The headlines screamed “This hot robot says she wants to destroy humans”. It turns out that it’s just the entertaining joke at the end of the interview which although rather sinister, if judged on headline grabbing ability and sheer creepiness was certainly successful. Once I managed to get over how lifelike they had managed to make this Robot, and started concentrating on the Robot’s self-stated “primary function” I once again found myself in awe at the potential of Robotics. This lifelike robot, designed for Human-Robot interaction has been designed for work in healthcare, therapy, education and customer service. Sounds great doesn’t it, particularly with the ageing population endemic in many western societies. Or does it? Watch the video and let me know what you think!