British-Canadian AI expert Geoffrey Hinton is the most recent winner of the Turing Award for his work in Deep Learning. Deep learning is seen as a promising, though not flawless, tool for the development of self-driving cars and other futuristic technologies. It is also used in current technology such as smart speakers and other consumer tech.

Libratus, an artificial intelligence bot built by a computer science professor and one of his PhD students, beat four of the world’s best poker pros in a twenty-day Texas Hold ‘Em tournament in 2017. The odds on Libratus winning were 4-1, and such was its success that it has now accepted a job planning war games for the Pentagon.

With AI and robots advancing so quickly many question how it will affect us in the long term, for better or worse? With Libratus getting a new job, Betway did some research to see what the prospects are for us in the future, will robots become our overlords with us living in some dystopian nightmare? Or will they be our saviour?

Employment

The biggest worry for many is how robots and AI will affect the job industry. Those who drive for a living worry that it could be the end of the road for their career. In the US alone, it is predicted that there could be up to 25,000 jobs lost a month, according to Goldman Sachs. In the UK, low-end estimates suggest that over 1.7 million truckers could also be replaced by self-driving counterparts.

It’s estimated that up to one-fifth of the global workforce could lose their jobs by 2030 due to robot automation. Machine operators and food workers are most vulnerable, but some unexpected roles are also at risk. Google has already revealed its advanced AI bot called Duplex, which conducts “sophisticated conversations” and completes admin tasks such as booking appointments.

On the flip side of this, a report from the World Economic Forum believes we can improve job search with AI will create 133 million new jobs by 2022 by freeing up staff for brand new tasks. We can expect to see an increase in data analysts and social media specialists, as well as ‘human’ jobs like teachers and customer service workers.

Heath and Medicine

Have you tried to get an appointment with a GP lately? Good luck with that, gone are the days of same day or next day appointments. Two weeks is the norm or longer. With our government determined to ruin the NHS with budget cuts, it could be the robots that help fix things.

AI-based systems are being developed to be the first point of contact for the sick instead of a human doctor. The BBC reported that Babylon, the company behind the NHS GP at Hand app, a GP chatbot, was able to beat GPs in an important exam to become qualified, scoring 81% compared to the average 72%. Another AI technology is able to detect cancer risks before symptoms appear 30 times faster than a human doctor, and with 99% accuracy.

Environment

We have done a pretty good job at destroying our world, many scientists agree that the sixth mass extinction event underway with humans being the cause.

Robots are being used to help mitigate this problem. For example, Australia is home to the GrowBot which plants trees 10 times faster than a human and at half the cost. Instead of seeds, these robots plant established trees more likely to grow successfully in a new location. The GrowBot team hopes to deploy over 4,500 of these machines to help revitalise the world’s forests.

Then there is the RangerBot which is tackling crown-of-thorns starfish, one of the three major threats to the Great Barrier Reef which uses a toxic substance only harmful to the starfish to kill them off. This robot can cover 14 times more area than their human counterparts.

One problem robots present is the fact they often have an environmental impact with their production, and the robots themselves require significant energy to operate. If you a susceptible to wearing a tin foil hat, then Wikipedia reports that there is a 5% chance that a super-intelligent AI will cause human extinction before 2100

Sport

It is unlikely that Manchester United will one day be robotic, but the annual RoboCup competition features football-playing bots powered by artificial intelligence. While the technology is fairly primitive at this stage, organisers aim to field a robot team capable of beating the human World Cup winners by 2050.

However it is expected that robots will replace human referee assistants in football by 2030, in order to eliminate human errors from officiating.

While still controlled by humans, drone racing has become a popular sport, often regarded as the next big thing. At some point, these could be controlled by AI, but is watching to algorithms control a drone as much fun as human control?

Customer services

Employing people is expensive, even if you pay them as little as possible, so big business is always looking to do away with us.

Robots and AI systems are becoming increasingly used for various jobs traditionally carried out by people.

A food delivery by drone has already been trialled in Iceland, though avoiding the country’s long and treacherous roads was more for the convenience of drivers than consumers. Now, UberEats plan to roll out drone delivery by 2021, with the company’s CEO claiming it is his “personal belief that a key to solving urban mobility is flying burgers”.

There are numerous concierge robots that are used in airports and hotels. Gatwick airport recently signed a contract to trial valet car parking robots. LG Cloi was at IFA last year in Berlin, this AI robot comes in multiple versions which can carry your luggage, act as a smart shopping trolley or a serving robot to bring you food and drink.

Good news though, robots aren’t doing that good of a job at replacing us in customer service yet. Japan’s Henn-na “Strange” Hotel, which predominantly used robots for all its jobs has now laid off half of them after they created more problems than they could solve.

In a study by Travelzoo, 70% of respondents felt that customer service robots struggle to understand informal language, local dialects, irony, or sarcasm, which may add fuel to the fire for travellers already experiencing a frustrating holiday. These sentiments are echoed in a study from SITA Lab which shows that, although humans prefer using automated services for simple steps like check-ins or bag drops, we’d much rather speak to humans to deal with problems relating to our journey or documentation.

Overall

With the automated vehicle industry about to boom there are some concerns over the next couple of decades with massive job loss, but long term, more jobs will be created, though there will be some transition as the people losing their jobs won’t necessarily be qualified for the new jobs created. It is not something that is going to happen overnight, so the impact of this transition is likely not to be that big.

However, thanks to our distinctly human traits, it's ultimately mankind who comes out on top. As much as we are lapping up the benefits of the mind-blowing technological advances already available to us, nothing can replace the simple but necessary pleasure of human interaction.

It’s great we have robots to make all aspects of our lives a little more convenient. But luckily for us, humans appear to be irreplaceable.

Man vs Machine: Will robots be our saviour or destroyer 1

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