Proposals to tax robots have been debated by serious folks recently. The European Union considered but ultimately rejected the idea of taxing firms that use robots. And last week Quartz published an interview with Bill Gates in which he argues for a robot tax. These proposals follow a spate of recent articles on robots and automation, some of which argue there will be large job losses from robots and automation. These articles include one in the New Yorker, which profiled books by Martin Ford, Jerry Kaplan, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, and David Autor's article on workplace automation in Journal of Economic Perspectives, among others.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to be a key element in creating the new digital labour force; what analyst firm Gartner is describing as DigitalOps. AI is integrating a long list of some of the most innovative and disruptive technologies available: machine learning; cognitive and computer vision; conversational capabilities; human-to-machine user interfaces; predictive data analytics; cybersecurity; IoT and intelligent monitoring. It is a huge range of applications that will take considerable skill to implement if they are to be optimised in work environments around the world. Despite all the advances in management software and techniques, the most effective path to extracting the maximum value from these technologies is through convergence with robotic process automation (RPA). This proven technology is already bringing together AI and cognitive tools to achieve productivity gains of several orders of magnitude whilst simultaneously slashing costs.
The speed of change will determine how disruptive automation is to the future of work and society. How is your leadership preparing for the future of work? Will digitisation lead to more work or less? Of course we live and work in the digital age but the change we've experienced so far is only the tip of the iceberg. The potential impact of digitisation on employment not only concerns the explosive growth of intelligent robots, but also the significant influence that machine learning and artificial intelligence will have on our work.
This productivity improvement also decreased the price of the Ford Model T and increased production tenfold to around 300,000 cars. That's more than the company's 300 competitors built with four times the number of employees. Critically, however, Ford's increase in productivity also drove a rapid growth in the business that created more jobs and almost doubled wages. In 1914 Henry Ford raised the average pay in his factories from $2.54 to $5 per day. Thanks to the moving assembly line, more people worked and made more money.
If my email inbox is anything to go by, a technology revolution is under way that is going to transform all of our lives very soon and it is called artificial intelligence. A Welsh company is using AI to detect North Korean bio-weapons. I could pop over to California to hear about "AI wearable solutions for aging population". And Lloyd's of London has unveiled an artificial intelligence partnership with a firm that promises "in a decade a significant part of the insurance industry will be powered by AI". These represent just three of the innumerable AI press releases aimed at me and other technology journalists over recent days.