Revisiting Next Generation Automation

Back in 2014, the thought of advancements in automation was picking up steam. I wrote about a Next Generation Automation and focused on five primary drivers of advanced automation: the automation of knowledge work, advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, and the mobile Internet. A McKinsey report from that period sized five disruptive technologies that could have an economic impact between $14 and $30 trillion. How much have we accomplished exactly seven years since that Blog post was written?

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Transformers Prioritize AI Investment

There are many examples of COVID-19 serving as an Accelerant. History and necessity tell us that automation is one of those examples. According to a Business Insider survey of 53 leaders featured in the Transforming Business series, AI and Cloud are at the top of the list of transformation that companies will invest in during 2021. It’s on the agenda of 47% of those surveyed. The connection to the pandemic can be seen in examples of where automation is applied. This recent Article describes a scenario where social distancing requirements are met through automation. Author Joe Mullich points to the kitchen of a burger joint, where a hard-working fry cook named “Flippy” is paving the way for greater use of artificial intelligence and cloud technology in the restaurant industry. 

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Accelerating Towards Automation

The acceleration of automation is not a direct outcome of the pandemic – it is simply more visible now. That visibility is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise horrible several months. The inequities that exist in the world are now more visible. The lack of preparation for a digital future has exposed those who did not see the need. In the case of automation, it was going to accelerate for a number of reasons, but the pandemic will Accelerate the Acceleration. One clear reason that this decade will see a massive investment in automation is the fall in Working Age population. Said another way, it is getting increasingly difficult to find skilled resources.

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Robots Are Constructing a Dam in Japan. Are Buildings Next?

Here is a scenario I expect to see play out increasingly over time:

To address Japan’s rapidly aging workforce and labor shortage, contractor Obayashi Corporation has turned to automation by constructing a dam almost entirely with robots

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The Third Tipping Point

I have invested considerable time exploring the tipping points in human history. When I say tipping point, I mean a fundamental change in the nature of being human. As described in my Post on the topic, there were two main tipping points in human history: from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, and agriculture to our industrial society.

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Robots And The Future Of Work

The phrase “The robots are coming” is often repeated these days. What does their arrival mean for the future of work? That question has short term implications, and the potential for profound long-term impacts. Ask around and you get vastly different perspectives on the question. We seem as polarized on the topic as we are about anything these days. A very good perspective was provided recently in an Article authored by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet. The article explores the possible changes to work as robots become a common feature in the work environment.

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Accelerating Towards Digital Transformation

It’s easy to view the current crisis as a catalyst for change. Lying beneath the surface are signals that major change is required, and when crisis emerges, hope for that change emerges with it. In most cases however, that change never materializes. The last two months have brought countless predictions of what is to come. While we need to consider the low percentage of successful post-crisis predictions in the past, two trends look likely to materialize: accelerated digital transformation, and a rapid path to automation.

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The Augmented Age

Maurice Conti is the Chief Innovation Officer at Alpha focused on what he calls the Augmented Age. He talks about it this way: We’re heading for a future where our natural human capabilities are going to be radically augmented in three ways: Computational systems will help us think. Robotic systems will help us make. And a digital nervous system will connect us to the world far beyond what our natural nervous system can offer.

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Automation Risk Levels

A popular question these days is: Will a robot take my job? That question is as popular as: what should my child study in school? At the heart of both questions is the fear that we as a society will automate anything that can be automated. This website may help bring some clarity – at least in the context of automation risk level. It’s very quick, simply enter your job and an automation risk level expressed as a percentage will be returned.

The Automation Spectrum

Ultimately, these questions are difficult to answer, as we cannot predict the jobs of the future – and required skill levels could be a moving target. The progression of automation can be viewed on a spectrum from augmenting humans to fully conscious machines. There are arguments being made on both ends of this spectrum – time will tell.

Social Robots

In this last segment from the Health Summit in D.C., I responded to a question regarding loneliness, isolation and the policies that might help address this societal issue. Is it strictly a policy question? Like everything else in this exponential world, are building blocks emerging to address such issues in different ways? Like say, social robots?