The rise of the robots, is this the beginning of the end?

Article 3 – The rise of the Robots, is this the beginning of the end?

What a scary thought, the North of Scotland is over run by machines, taking our jobs, and putting thousands of skilled workers on The preverbial scrap heap

In a recent interview for the BBC, Stephen Hawking said:

The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

Well if Stephen Hawking said that then surely it must be right, yes?

More than 10 million UK workers are at high risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years as the automation of routine tasks gathers pace in a new machine age.

report by the consultancy firm PwC found that 30% of jobs in Britain were potentially under threat from breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI). In some sectors half the jobs could go. The report predicted that automation would boost productivity and create fresh job opportunities, but it said action was needed to prevent the widening of inequality that would result from robots increasingly being used for low-skill tasks.

PwC said 2.25 million jobs were at high risk in wholesale and retailing – the sector that employs most people in the UK – and 1.2 million were under threat in manufacturing, 1.1 million in administrative and support services and 950,000 in transport and storage.

I am a child of the 70s (although my husband argues this constantly!) and went through my O Grades in 1986/7 – for those millennials reading this, those were the old fashioned Standard Grades. When I studied my O Grade Accountancy, I learned how to do “double entry” book keeping manually. Yes! Manually with the use of old fashioned “T Accounts”, pencil, rubber, ruler for neatness (because as a control freak my T accounts needed to be exactly T Shaped!) This was the best training for my future career as an accountant as you learned the basics from day one.

Fast forward to 2018 and all you now need to prepare your books, accounts and tax return is some fancy software. At a click of a button, a whole process of technology now downloads your bank statements, allocates your costs, income and expenses to the correct ledger (not a real ledger remember – this is all “virtual”), reconciles everything, tells you how much VAT you owe the tax man and how much you should be saving each month towards your tax bill. Great yes? Actually it is and I love the progress the profession has made. The fact everything is online and accessible, you can chat with your accountant virtually, and not worry about dropping your books in a puddle or the whole “dog ate my homework scenario” – which believe me I have heard on occasion from sheepish clients!

The reality is, that my profession is not the only one getting more and more automated. It is inevitable that Book keepers will become extinct in the future as the online software programmes get faster, more savvy, more intelligent, leaving Accountants no option but to change their services accordingly to meet the new era of accountancy and being a trusted advisor.

So where does it stop? This is just one industry, the one I work in but I see this becoming more and more prevalent and it’s a discussion I have with so many other Entrepreneurs across Scotland and beyond.

No matter what sector we work in, we are all being challenged and pitted against IT and technology development. Leah Hutcheon, CEO and creator of Appointed created a multi time zone booking system when she couldn’t book a hair appointment. Dundee based Chris Van Der Kuhl, founder of 4J Studios, said the same, that AI was a serious issue and one all businesses had to think about and not bury their robotic heads in the sand. As systems like this become more common, it will start to take over and cut out the middle man (or woman), figuratively speaking.

As more and more processes become automated, reducing human error and inefficiencies, the job market will change but will the threat be real?

Jon Andrews, head of technology at PWC said “In the future, knowledge will be a commodity so we need to shift our thinking on how we skill and upskill future generations. Creative and critical thinking will be highly valued, as will emotional intelligence”

Some of you may know that I am also CEO of a new Aviation Safety company, Nimrod Safety Solutions and during our investigative work over the last two years, researched Captain Chesley Sullenberger who piloted US Airways Flight 1549 to an emergency landing on the Hudson River. Was it the human error that caused the emergency landing or was it really the human factor that no computerised system could replicate – the 40 years experience that Capt Sully had as a pilot that saved everyone? That intuition and sixth sense?

Even though all business owners do have a responsibility to think about the impact of AI on their business and employees, there will be certain aspects that cannot be replaced – namely social skills, interaction with customers, etc. Because no matter how automated any process and system is, there is still nothing quite like getting through to a “real person” on the other end of the phone, or having that face to face meeting where you can bounce ideas, empathise and offer support and ideas that no Robot could ever manage to deliver

it could literally fry their mainframe.