5 good reasons why I do not fear robots at work, whatever taxed or not.

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Since Bill Gates considered to tax robots, the discussion rapidly became mainstream and incredibly interesting. While this topic deserves deep understanding and knowledge to be addressed – it refers to numerous points at the core of the evolution of society in the years to come – I think the reasons to be optimistic about the impact of technology at work are a lot. I found 5, plus one.

The term robots is misleading. If we assume that the word robots stays for innovation powered by digital technologies, than the perspective changes. Let’s forget about science-fiction and Artificial Super Intelligence for a while, to imagine technology at work as an opportunity rather than a threat. If you really want know the threats of #ai and robots, here’s a great piece.

Tracking and analyzing the data that surrounds us transcends human capabilities, so we need machine’s computational power and artificial intelligence to make sense of what we don’t see with the eyes. Yes, machines can replace humans, but only where humans are not competing. So, we are not talking about automating human tasks here, but we are talking about enabling humans to achieve more through machines. With machines.

Yes, algorithms are replacing brokers in financial micro-trading, but this belongs to the inevitable. Will the operator at the side of a manufacturing machine have the same destiny? I don’t think so. He/she is probably going to focus on what really matters, relying on #ai for what is impossible for humans to achieve. If there is a risk of workforce cuts through innovation, this is not going to be a new issue. If successfully addressed by governments and HR departments, this is a well-known evolutionary challenge for society, not just an issue occurred during the pursuit of profits. The company is just one stakeholder in the process. We all have to take part to the process by proactively accept and understand what is happening. We may question how easy is for all of us to close our personal gap and be able to master then technology we need… I believe curiosity is the most powerful ingredient of everyone’s recipe of survival and success. Curiosity is something we all have.

Digitalizing a production line does not mean only reaching unprecedented performance, but also bringing value from the core of the process to its surface, where it’s visible and becomes a source of inspiration for humans. For many years to come, humans will be the only ones able to convert the power of data into truly creative ideas and to short-circuit elements that a machine will never couple. If we unlock new mindsets through new tools, than we are going to be the most evolved form of intelligence to take advantage from them.

You cannot stop a river with hands. A dam will just temporary accumulate water for a greater purpose, but finally water will flow. It’s just matter of time. Let’s consider we can’t stop innovation.

Bill is too smart to say something that is not worth sharing. His point is interesting and inspiring. Probably this is the reason why he engaged such a wide audience around this topic. I don’t think he sees taxing robots as a limit for the adoption of new technologies (in fact he imagined to tax robots, not the companies for installing them, so efficiency enhancement remains a driver for adoption), but rather as a resource for society to keep its health and wealth acceptable, even during dramatic times of change. So, better to read between the lines and activate our own ideas on this topic. And that’s exactly what is happening. Thanks Bill, good job! :-)

Well, that’s all from me. I apologize if my words lack of bibliography, support of philosophy or whatever… these are just my thoughts. I am an engineer, so technically I think myself as a worker even though a lot of friends of mine periodically remind me that I am not so good at doing things in practice. :-)

I do not fear robots as they are and also when they are a metaphor for progress and innovation. I think we still have so much to achieve that we can’t do all with our own forces. We need to build our future and if this passes through re-inventing the way we live and work, let’s do this. Step by step.

- Riccardo

Riccardo Zanardelli is an engineer and an independent digital art researcher. His work focus at the intersection of business, technology and (sometimes) art. Some of his artworks have been featured at the Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, NewMuseum’s Rhizome ArtBase (NY), Interfaces Monthly (an event by the Barbican, The Trampery and FishIsland Lab, London) and on the Microsoft’s Cognitive Services website. He lives in Italy, he is a husband and father of two.

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Digital Platforms @ Beretta | Engineering | New Media Arts

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