Artificial intelligence is a promise of immortality. But what will we be doing when robots kick us out from work?
In a conversation with INN:Poland, Tomasz Gibas, founder of Coders Center and currently managing partner at KOGIFI, argues that setting up your own business will save you from unemployment.
The visions of the future promise us to make man virtual and, in
a way, immortal, but also envisage all of us losing our jobs and being replaced by smart robots. No profession, be it a lawyer or a cleaner, a doctor or a journalist, a taxi driver or a warehouse worker, will escape from the robots’ domination. “Hold on a minute. It’s not like that,” says Tomasz Gibas, an expert in artificial intelligence. In a conversation with INN:Poland, the co-founder of Coders Center argues that setting up your own business, and turning the robots’ potential into profit, will save you from unemployment.
Exchanging experiences and swapping skills will be useful in the future, and it might become much easier, since, as you claim, thanks to the robotisation of our lives, we’ll become in a way... immortal.
Indeed, though it will likely happen in the next 15 or 20 years.
What will this immortality be all about?
There are two aspects of it: the physical and the personal. We are getting closer to making the physical aspect a reality thanks to a significant discovery made by researches at the University of Vienna. They mapped out a nervous system of a nematode, which is a small invertebrate of around 1 mm, and reproduced it as an artificial neural network. As it turned out, the “virtual” nematode recreated the behaviours of the true nematode with much fidelity, and without any intrusion on the side of the researchers.
And then, we instill our personality in this body?
That’s a task for artificial intelligence. Today, we find artificial intelligence ever more often in our homes, with voice assistants who help us in our daily activities, such as turning the light on or off, ordering food or shopping on-line, or who assist us as our personal trainers or secretaries.
And how, in this case, should AI reflect our behaviours?
Firstly, smart assistants are connected to the Internet, which gives them access to practically unlimited resources of knowledge. Secondly, they obtain certain data from ourselves, such as meeting dates, shopping lists or routes to our work. Smart assistants have been on the market only for a few years, but in a long-term prospect, we have to assume that we’ll share more and more information with them, and give them access to a large part of our lives, if not to our whole lives, as a result.
Will such a smart assistant be able to imitate our manner of speech?
Every user is different. That’s why people who design artificial intelligence want it to focus not on reacting to programmed commands, but on learning how the user communicates with it. The perfect voice assistant should know how its user formulates their thoughts, so it can always interpret them correctly, even when some of the information is implied, just like in a normal conversation.
And, in the end, the machine becomes me?
To a great extent. An outline of your personality remains with by the machine even after you die. The robot becomes your backup copy. It transfers you into the world of immortality. It will allow your great-grandchildren to talk with “you”, even though you will have shuffled off your mortal coil.
And who will own this backup copy after our deaths? Will it be the company whose products I used?
There are no legal regulations with respect to this issue yet, but logic would suggest this copy would belong to your family. Don’t worry, the immortal version of yours won’t be exploited and won’t be working overtime (laughter).
A “yes-no” question now. Will robots take our jobs?
No, definitely not. Jobs which will disappear will be replaced with new jobs. Such is the course of every revolution.
Representatives of technology companies say the same, but don’t give any concrete answers when you ask them where those new jobs would be created.
I’ll give you a personal example. There are over 180 interactive endpoints in my home, which are responsible for managing its various functions, not to mention the cleaning robots and many other pieces of electronic equipment that I have. Contrary to what you would expect, maintaining all those devices requires a lot of time. Someone still has to empty the waste bags, charge up the batteries, or help put a device back on track if it loses its way. Soon enough I’ll need a full-time technician.
But you only need one person for that. Just like in supermarkets, where one worker can watch over many self-checkout terminals. Any other staff becomes unnecessary.
But the terminals lag or break down or fail to print a receipt. If we want to cancel one of the products, we often end up calling the staff. Besides, not all people are open to the idea of doing the shopping entirely alone. They will need the assistance of another person. What you have in mind is something we’ll have to wait for for another 15 or 20 years. This is when people born with tablets in their hands will be the main customers of the market.
And what about Amazon Go? This store is already fully autonomous. All you need to do is download an application, which then tracks your movements and charges you for what you bought at the end.
There’s no such solution in Europe yet.
But if it proves successful in the U.S., it will likely come to us. In turn, we already have an automatic production plant that manufactures domestic appliances in Poland. The warehouse, which holds 220,000 appliances is a workplace for only one person.
What if the robots supervised by this person break down?
A few technicians will come and repair them.
That’s not so easy. Such a failure means massive financial losses for the company, and it has to be repaired on the spot. There’s a whole team of people just waiting by the phone to go, because they’ll have to make the repairs in a certain amount of time. The same applies today to IT department employees who work on the servers. Future will see robots being able to repair one another but this will only happen in a quite far future.
So robots won’t make us totally unemployed. Instead of working, we’ll be dealing with the devices that do the work for us. What will we be making the money on then?
The easiest answer would be that we’ll be making the money precisely on those devices. If they’ll be owned by people, the problem will solve itself.
Will we be manufacturing and selling those robots?
No. Rather, we’ll be lending them out to companies. Let’s imagine
a Mr Smith who buys a robot vacuum. He gets together with his associates, they have around a dozen of such robot vacuums in total, and they create a cooperative of sorts. Then they sign an agreement with some plant and deliver the robots to the company. With profits, they buy new robots.
The company may just as well buy those robots on its own. The whole plan goes bust.
This is how it is today. But what if the governments, aiming at protecting the workplaces, will allow replacing people with machines belonging to those people? This Mr Smith of ours will have to cover the costs of purchase, maintenance and further investments with respect to machines, and ensure that they break down as seldom as possible. Otherwise, he’ll be losing money which he needs for increasing the productivity of other devices, among other things. The Smiths will profit from the work of their technical second selves, which, in turn, will constitute parts of larger production lines, dough mixers, vending machines, and so on.
This means that we’ll all become businesspeople?
Yes, in some sense. We’ll be thinking about new solutions and about the ways in which we could optimise the current solutions, like most of today’s start-ups. Replacing man with the machine is nothing new, but we could monetise the machine’s worktime for the benefit of its owner. Not for the benefit of a manufacturing plant, but for the benefit of the Mr Smith. Am I not right?
Tomasz Gibas, CEO of Kogifi Consulting Group
A quality driven, digital disruptor with an enthusiasm for technical solution innovation, Tomasz Gibas joined the world of IT as a graduate from the Technical University of Bialystok, Wroclaw School of Economics and Warsaw University of Economics, and also came equipped with a MBA Diploma from the Leipzig University of Management.
Following an early career in project management and leadership within IT organizations, including BenQ Siemens, Tieto Poland and TBSCG Tomasz chose to specialize in the digital marketing aspects of IT and founded Coders Center, which delivered comprehensive enterprise web solutions to business partners. Company was acquired by SoftServe, where Tomasz was acting as VP of Digital Solution and New Business. Now founder and CEO of Kogifi Consulting Group.
A seasoned manager and leader across telecoms, web and general IT sectors, Tomasz is a thought leader in Enterprise CMS and e-Commerce, and is a fierce promoter of digital marketing and omnichannel solutions. He shares his ideas through blogging and public speaking.