Digital skills: The Robots are Coming

steven george-hilley

Automation Nation: Robots are here to stay says Steven George-Hilley

If like me you spent a few months complaining about the pain of self-service supermarket check-outs, before mastering the art and learning to love then, then you too will accept that automation is here to stay

Take a good look at the work of scientists at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who created the freakishly realistic ‘Nadine’ – the world’s most human-like robot.

Scared? There’s not need to be, for before long robotic creations will be popping up in everything from office receptions to fast food outlets. Like self-service check-outs, after an initial period of uncomfortable interactions, they will become just another element in our daily lives.

Movies like Terminator, Total Recall and I, Robot all gave us a glimpse into the future of automation that we could scarcely imagine. But now that future is finally beginning to arrive.

But this trend brings with it more anxiety than a SkyNet style global takeover. Millions of manual jobs will be lost with people swapped with robots, who don’t have sick days or kick-up a fuss when they have to work overtime.

The task for the government is balancing these innovations and their associated savings, whilst protecting jobs and the livelihood of citizens. The first stage in this process is to ensure all workers are equipped for the digital world of the future, and can use computers, crunch data are coding-literate for the future world.

That way instead of robots taking jobs and leaving workers unemployed, new vocations in the management of automated technology will open up for those with the skills to pursue them.

But this cannot happen unless the digital divide is tackled and the government teaches the next generation about the merits of understanding and managing technology.

The robotic revolution doesn’t have to be a painful experience, but unless the skills crisis is addressed head on then it could well be.

Steven George-Hilley is director of technology at Parliament Street

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