This refers to your editorial Robotrise (FE, April 1). Look at robotics this way. Producers and investors look for robots to automate workbut they can never get robots to purchase their wares. The pie-man requires a
Simon, not an ASIMO. Machines are going to replace humans not just in industrial workplaces, but households too. A recent study by academics from the Oxford university argues that 47% of todays jobs could be replaced by robots in another 20 years! It is tempting to think that it is repetitive work that will get replaced, but no. Intelligent robots would replace work requiring decision-making too. Being educated and holding a degree doesnt mean insulation from job loss due to automation. Then, there are the semi-intelligent processes like processing bills, sorting goods based on categories, etc. Manual labour engaged in labelling, stacking and packing in retail outlets, warehouses, etc, too could come under threat. Amazon and WalMart lead the way in automating business. If Luddites in one area block the inevitable advent of technological change, then it will migrate to a place where it is welcomeand from there, things are going to get shipped out cheaper and better. This only disadvantages the resisting entity. The best way ahead is to embrace the change, as it is everywhere. First, change the system of education. Todays rote learning needs to be supplanted with a curriculum that fosters creativity. Yet, people must remember that education is no panaceait may turn out that they still rely on government assistance later. They must keep themselves fully informed and understand that the future would be about more machines doing jobs. Two, governments, world over, have the responsibility to ensure that the transition from human labour to robotics happens smoothly. Raising taxes or minimum wage would be counterproductive. Doing more with less would be the trick, world over, for governments. Third, raising awareness about automation helps people feel secure and ensures social stability. People must be informed that their survival is not threatened because of machines, and that the government would intervene if and when necessary. The silver lining here is that the economy requires people to consume what is produced. Robots will not be purchasing iPhones,laptops or sandwichesat least, not for their own use. The consumer base will always be humans. That people can reskill is another advantage. To this extent, at least, we are safe. Some fun trivia: Japanese couple Satoko Inoue and Tomohiro Shibata got married in 2010and the marriage was performed by a robot! Clergymen too are likely to face the heat of technological change.
Raghu Seshadri, Chennai
Man and machine
Apropos of the editorial Bionic Brawn (FE, April 2), now this is the type of news that makes a morning truly good in all essence and spirit. I was awed by reading the article which introduced me to a whole new world which we have just continued to dream of. Far away in Switzerland scientists are going to play God, literally, as they put the bots and athletes to work in tandem with each other. But there is a lot more to this than just sports. It is an opportunity to showcase how greater our understanding of human mind and body has been achieved, whether those paralysed will be able to lead normal lives once again, will humanity triumph again Deformities, wars, accidents and reasons innumerable have long rendered innocents out of action. Cybathlon 2016 holds out a ray of hope to all those hoping for the best. Biotechnology is on the rise in India and hence I hope that some Indian companies too are in the fray as it will be great to see our intellectual know-how at work. There is a great probability that we will see seamless synchronisation of man and machines. Just hope that this wonderful technology is made available at affordable costs with quality. Also it should be aesthetically appealing and blend in naturally, because such technology exists now also but various factors have not led to its widespread adoption.
Gaurav Gupta, Delhi