Robots will have captured our offices before the end of the decade, claims a British expert in artificial intelligence who provides that by 2018 robots will take professions that now are thought to be purely “human”. If to believe the forecasts, office workers, secretaries, salespeople, insurers and administrators should start looking for another workpiece.
The predictions of the bleak future for human occupation are made by Andrew Anderson, CEO of artificial intelligence company Celaton, in an interview in the British newspaper «Daily Mail». As the British expert said, the company undertook an assessment of all of the achievements in the field of artificial intelligence of recent years. The conclusion is that the replacement of humans by machines in the workplace will come sooner than you thought: in fact it is considered to be achieved within the next five years, as the progress in artificial intelligence is much faster than expected.
The most impressive aspect of the predictions that was obtained from the assessment of Celaton is that they do not relate to the “invasion” of machines in the not too demanding in terms of skills “mechanical” jobs – this is something that has already occurred to a significant degree in industrial production and military sectors. Instead the number of robots seems to increase in professions that require a degree of reasoning and thinking. “I am afraid that now it is actually the fact that most office workers will disappear,” said Mr. Anderson. “This tendency will have a huge impact on the job market, while the constantly progressing developments in artificial intelligence have evolved to the degree that robots now can think and learn like humans.”
Machines that think like humans
Robots can now quickly and automatically execute many tasks, which require a lot of work and effort from humans, and some most recent models can even make decisions, which so far was considered an exclusively human task. “The artificial intelligence can read and understand the meaning of the whole documents with the help of patterns of words and phrases. This learning ability – and even learning a natural consequence of processing documents – minimizes the need for office staff to perform certain repetitive tasks” said the expert. “And the fact that a machine not only can perform these functions but also continuously learns to perform them better and faster means that office workers are no longer needed in number so huge as it once was.” For example, as explained by the expert, a machine can distinguish the ‘double’ claims made to insurance companies immediately recognizing that it has already seen a phone number or an address – something that a human cannot do so easily. Furthermore, and most importantly, when there is need for human intervention, the machine can learn from this by expanding and improving its performance.
Although the predictions of Mr. Anderson may seem to belong to the realm of science fiction, what he describes is already happening to a degree on the Internet: some companies sell online using automatic customer service. Earlier this year IBM also gave the “promotion” to a supercomputer named Watson turning it into robotic reception center of the customer service department. The system collects and organizes data about customers and gives answers that are best suited to each case.
In their turn, researchers from the University of Bielefeld developed a robot which aspires to a career in one of the professions that require human contact and personal relationship – that of the bartender. Its name is Joint Action in Multimodal Embodied Systems or, more ‘friendly’, JAMES. Even if JAMES will never become just… James and will fail to win the sympathy of the bar customers, Mr. Anderson is convinced that robots will “change the game” in the labor market. The next five years will show if he is right.