Do you ever worry about robots taking over the world—or at least your job? Once upon a time, that notion might have made you feel a little silly; as if you were overreacting after too many viewings of The Terminator or Blade Runner. However, in the year 2017, it doesn’t seem like such a stretch to worry about the increasing presence of robots and artificial intelligence (AI).
If you’ve watched a single interview with the robot named Sophia, it seems that we should all take steps to understand our future “relationship” with robots and AI. It is on the horizon. Recently granted “robot citizenship” in Saudi Arabia, the humanoid robot created by Hanson Robotics frequently uses sarcasm and cracks jokes during interviews. She has even taken a few jabs at Elon Musk who has lately started sounding warning bells to alert humanity that AI is rapidly advancing and may soon become a huge existential threat. Check out Sophia talking to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
Are We Naively Surrendering Our Rights to Robots and AI?
Sophia is the most overt and extreme example of the future of robotics, but there are more subtle ways that robots and the AI are weaving their way into our daily lives. Whether AI may affect us with robots threatening to take our jobs, driving our cars or monitoring our utility usage through smart meters, the future is closer than many people fully understand.
Our collective underlying fear for a massive loss of jobs is probably the most present risk we all face, and it is not unfounded.
Just take a look at the self-checkout lanes at your local grocery store or the kiosks at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, and you will see that there is a shelf life for traditional human cashiers. Or think about how often you send in your order at the pizza shop through its mobile app. It has all started in subtle and extremely convenient ways that we don’t think much about since, for now, most of us don’t yet know what it is like for the Wendy’s cashier who was laid off when the kiosks were installed.
The Australian website, The Conversation, shares that 70% of young people are training and preparing for jobs that will no longer exist in the future. Additionally, almost five million Australian jobs—comprising about 40% of the workforce—are likely to be replaced by computers in the next 10 to 15 years. And, the story is the same across the globe.
The next tier of jobs at risk include office financial workers (e.g., procurement, payroll, bookkeeping, accounting, audit staff, etc.), administrative staff, computer support workers, legal support workers, hotel and travel workers, postal service mail carriers, machinery installation and repair workers, food preparation workers, etc.
And don’t count on resting on your laurels if you work in an office environment or in a cushy white-collar professional environment. Every job in every industry seems to be fair game in the future.
Have we set ourselves up for professional extinction with the paradox of increased productivity and well-being through technology while, at the same time, reinforcing the likely inequalities that will ultimately result?
Robot Economics suggests that the impact could be profound but may not be insurmountable.
We Can Protect Ourselves from the Coming Robot Blitz by Fine-Tuning Our Data Literacy Skills
These are both challenging and exciting times. AI, robots and smart materials are here and are constantly being fed data that they each synthesize to become more adept at “understanding” our world. And right now, they may just be doing it better than we are.
This should be a wakeup call. Each of us must be concerned for our own future and learn the skills that will allow us to be enhanced by machines and not replaced by them. As Abraham Lincoln observed in his second address to Congress, “As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”
Thankfully, we don’t have to bow down to welcome our robot overlords just yet—and perhaps we never will—thanks to data literacy. We can actually “robot-proof” our future by learning about data literacy and ensuring that it is a prime focus in teaching our next generation, notes The MIT Press.
What Is Data Literacy and How Will It Help Us to Our AI-Based Future?
Think of all the data that Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other tech stalwarts gather about us and the world on a daily basis. Data literacy comes down to making sense of all the available data. It gives us the ability to derive meaningful information from that data, which can help us find patterns and make sense of the world, according to Tech Target.
Here are just a few skills that data literacy offers:
• Learning and understanding what data is appropriate to use for a specific purpose.
• Deciphering data visualizations, such as charts and graphs.
• Exploring the possibilities provided by data analysis.
• Recognizing misleading, inaccurate or misrepresentative data.
• Becoming a data storyteller to communicate complex ideas about data to help educate others.
What Are Some Practical Ways to Increase Data Literacy Now?
Everyone from kids, business owners and everyday citizens can benefit from improving data literacy.
For example, if you want to implement some data literacy strategies in your small business, start by tagging systems to learn how website visitors are consuming data, such as via a smartphone or a tablet. You can use that data to improve overall engagement.
Forbes recommends that anyone can simply inject themselves into the process right from your computer. Start by keeping up with tweets hashtagged #datascience and #machinelearning to collect your own data and make sense of it.
The robots are constantly improving their data literacy, so we all need to do our best to keep up.
Check out Sophia on Facebook!