Friday, June 17, 2016

Driverless cars, people-less factories and automated call centers

Man has evolved from generation to generation, from stone-age to modern age. He used different materials and developed new tools with every passing generation to ease his work. But the present evolution is aiming at replacing the man himself with machines. For example, take driverless cars which are already at advanced stages of testing phase. They have cameras to do the functions of eyes, sensors to replace the nervous system and a processor makes decisions and the car moves on without a driver.

Robots have been in use for many decades but the modern day robots are self-learning. They can be taught to do repetitive tasks which they will do tirelessly with same precision and produce quality output without exchanging stares with their production shop manager. Employers surely love these robots as they do not ask pay rise every year or won’t go on strike, so more and more robots are replacing the jobs previously done by humans. Many large scale factories are automated where robots do material handling, machining, welding, riveting, painting and packaging etc. tasks. These factories employ very lean human staff and getting close to be labeled people-less factories. These factories will rollout cars which won’t need drivers!

The recent advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has led to development of bots which can talk to (or chat with) customers, receive their complaints, provide information which were typically done by a customer care or call center employee. Not much time left for those in BPO industries before they are replaced with bots. The algorithms used in these bots understand the human language, the way we converse naturally along with our slangs. In the coming years you can employ a bot as your personal assistant, to schedule your calendar, to answer your calls and to plan your travel.

The corporate world will surely love these bots and robots as they improve business efficiency and improve profits. Will that lead to economic growth with fewer jobs? Probably so. And that is a bad news for half the world’s population which goes hungry and do not have a job to do. But the developed world would not care and the march of automaton would not stop. In the near future, most of those in developed world need not do physical work and they are reduced to just feel as all physical tasks are outsourced to a bot or robot. And the jobless will see that their chances of getting a job are further reducing.

Welcome to the new world of automation. You may think it is still far away in time before you face a bot/robot or interact with it. But in less than 10 years, they would have made inroads into your lives like how a cell phone made it into your pocket.

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