AI Invasion is no Y2K Bug Fizz

Real Danger Looming on the Horizon

As a chess player, I can say without any hesitation that the ability to think, say, eight moves ahead is critical for evolving and executing a win strategy.

Likewise, in business and governance, a fool-proof path to success lies in anticipating challenges and putting counter-measures to keep them at bay.

Occasionally, such planning manifests itself in fear mongering verging on blowing things out of proportion. The panic over the Y2K bug created by the U.S. before the millennium year kicked in is a case in point. It generated a lot of buzz, turning out to be mere fizz in the end.

A positive way to look at it is to assume the planning helped avert any calendar data-related crisis. The beneficiaries were coders in mainly India who picked up some quick Cobol skills and moved to the U.S. to help overcome any mess that was not to be.

Similar fear pangs are being unleashed over robots and Artificial Intelligence. However, that cannot be dismissed in the same vein as the Y2K bug. It is already becoming real with robots being replaced in a big way even in China where businesses had flocked to for cheap labour to support their manufacturing.

A report in today’s edition of The Straits Times points out that at a Ford car assembly plant “at least 650 robots, resembling huge, white- necked vultures, bob and weave to assemble the steel structures of utility vehicles and mid-size sedans.”

Amazon is a big user of robots at its warehouses, one of the reasons for attractive pricing.

Higher-skilled jobs are also on the block, with Oxford University researchers having estimated that “47% of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades.” Doctors are among the top five occupations that come under the robotic threat. Programmers and journalists too! Effectively, both white-collar and blue-collar jobs are at risk from the robot and AI evolution.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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