By: Jamil Roberts
Many years ago, Howard Burpee who taught in the Computer Science Department and taught a Senior Seminar class in the department approached the Beacon asking about the possibilities of his students submitting a column that explored technology interests. The Beacon was more than happy to help this become a reality. Last spring Howard Burpee retired. The following Tech Talk submissions didn’t make print for numerous reasons. No slight intended towards the students who wrote and submitted these columns. The Tech Talk columns were always highly appreciated and Howard’s intentions of “having a forum, like the Beacon available to highlight the technology student’s work” respected. The Beacon is a fuller newspaper because of this and are hopeful that the Senior Seminar students will continue to submit Tech Talk columns.
What is automation? Simply put, automation is having a machine perform a task with
little to no human intervention. We typically think of these tasks as repetitive and mindless, like boxing materials in a warehouse. But with modern advances in technology, we are able to make machines automate more complex tasks that until recently, only humans could perform.
There has been a lot of talk lately about people losing their jobs due to automation in the
near future. The most at risk jobs discussed are in the service industry. What is alarming about this is that most Americans work in the service industry, over 70% according to the Pew Research Center (https://tinyurl.com/gpcyrgm).
Well, I am sorry to tell you that automated machines have already come out of the
warehouses in a quest to take our jobs away. We have all seen self-serve kiosks at stores. Instead of having six human cashiers, now one person oversees a fleet of mechanical cashiers. Amazon has taken this even further with the opening of their experimental Amazon Go store, launched in Seattle earlier this year. A network of sensors, cameras and artificial intelligence allows shoppers to enter the store, grab what they want, and leave. Perfect for those who hate awkward social interactions while waiting in line!
Fast food restaurants are also moving towards automation. According to this CNBC
article (https://tinyurl.com/y9w78nz2), Greg Creed, CEO of YUM, which owns the well known, fast food restaurants such as KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, automation is coming to the fast food industry and his company is already investing in the technologies. He estimates that in the next 10 years, a large portion of the work performed by people can be replaced by automation.
The transportation industry isn’t safe, either. Self driving vehicles are drastically
improving with time, and realistically only have to be safer than humans. Given machines don’t have the same faults us lowly humans do, that shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. Companies like Uber, Google and Tesla already have self driving vehicles on the road today.
Artificial intelligence is coming to life in ways that are hard to imagine. Artificial
intelligence can create music and paintings that sound and look as if created by a person. Some are able to teach other machines, possibly jeopardizing jobs in the tech field. In fact, artificial intelligence is even being used in the creation of articles for news organizations. Not this one, though. In all seriousness, automation does have the potential to eliminate a large number of jobs, and we need to prepare for this possibility. Some have suggested implementing a “Universal Basic Income”, a system in which the government gives everyone a livable amount of money on
a regular basis. Others suggest people change their marketable job skills to evolve with future changes, but this isn’t possible for everyone and jobs may be scarce.
If automation takes over, a new renaissance could take place where we live easy lives off
the backs of robots, with endless time to do whatever we want. Or this technology may be used for the benefit of a select few while the rest of us struggle to survive, at least until the robots completely take over. We will have to wait and see.
The online version of this article can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/yclhcgh4
Jamil Roberts is a member of the Information Technology Senior Seminar Course and is
planning on career in the field of Information Technology in a creative capacity.