While we are already seeing robots take over dangerous, repetitive, and menial tasks formerly reserved for human workers across a wide variety of industries, people are beginning to worry that robots will not be their sole competition. Several artificial intelligence (AI) experts, in fact, argue that augmentation, more than automation, will define the future of workspaces.
The Current Augmentation Reality
Foremost augmentation proponent Mind Foundry believes that while robots aided by advanced machine learning (ML) algorithms can take over some human tasks, it may be impossible for them to do so without some amount of human supervision. Instead, they opine that augmented or enhanced humans may comprise a chunk of future workforces.
To date, some forward thinkers have begun investing in technological developments that would someday lead to AI-enhanced humans. One of them is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who recently invested in a company that finds ways to implant computer chips in the human brain. While his interest lies in finding a cure for neurological diseases, the development of such a technology can have extended uses in augmentation.
Tesla’s Elon Musk backed a brain-computer interface (BCI) venture called “Neuralink.” He believes that years from now, brain and digital intelligence will merge.
Other notable investments in human augmentation include Bulletproof’s Dave Asprey’s US$1 million venture to reach the age of 180.
For now, we have yet to see the ongoing projects bear fruit to create what augmentation proponents envision as the future of workspaces—one manned by super-strong, -informed, and -safe workers.
The Future of Workspaces
Human augmentation is expected to produce workers that have:
Workers can wear robotic exoskeletons to grow stronger, allowing them to lift as much weight as a large robot can. Today, warehouse and construction site workers risk injury and exhaustion when moving heavy objects without the aid of powerful tools like forklifts. Unlike using a forklift, though, a human in a robotic suit can retain his flexibility to move naturally.
Much like how fighter pilots use heads-up displays to gain crucial information, augmented pilots in the future may be able to get the same data without the displays. As such, they can go about their tasks without any hindrances. They can also get directions and orders directly. Or make critical decisions aided by AI and ML based on risk calculations and predictive applications.
Many manufacturing environments involve the use of heavy equipment, caustic chemicals, and other dangers that can maim and kill human workers. In the future, workers can have sensor implants that track their pulse rates, body temperature, chemical exposure, or other factors that indicate injury risks.
What Kinds of Jobs Are Augmented Workers Expected to Do?
Experts foresee future employees working as:
AI Oversight Managers
While AI systems are gaining sophistication, allowing them to analyze considerable amounts of data faster than humans can, they still get things wrong. Many of them are vulnerable to biases, requiring specialists or AI oversight managers to interpret decisions and make sure these are fair and transparent.
Autonomous vehicles can crash, and users are left confused about who is to blame. AI-powered systems are likely to cause several ethical dilemmas that will necessitate manufacturers to hire data ethicists to help address them.
Advanced AI systems will enable organizations to analyze structured and unstructured data to find insights to solve real-world problems. Social physicists will be needed to handle health epidemics, famines, or crimes using big data.
In the future, humans are likely to work with robots. Knowing how to control machines is vital. Cobotics trainers will help us learn to interact with, manipulate, and repair our autonomous colleagues to get the best out of them.
Technology Convergence Technicians
AI will be accompanied by other disruptive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), three-dimensional (3D) printing, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Technology convergence technicians or computer scientists who can help organizations integrate or combine these technologies to their processes to create new offerings will thus be in high demand.
Now that we have gotten a glimpse of the future of workspaces let us delve into the crux of the matter. When the time for augmented humans comes, should the non-augmented worry about losing their jobs? The best way to alleviate fears, as we see it, is to train for an augmented worker job as early as now.