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Ethical Technology Advocate

Overview

Over the next decade, the long-awaited era of the robots will dawn. Robotic personal assistants, manual labour technicians and customer service representatives will start to become a part of everyday life as emerging artificial intelligence technologies become ever more sophisticated. The global robotics market will blossom to $153bn over the next five years – $83bn for robots, and $70bn for artificial intelligence-based systems – according to research by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Autonomous robots will account for almost a quarter (22.8%) of the annual growth in automation every year until 2024, dominating the smart machine market, according to BCC Research. For mankind, it will be a second industrial revolution, releasing millions of workers from tedious administrative roles to follow more creative career paths. But it will also bring us face-to-face with some of our darkest fears about the rise of the machines, popularised in sci-fi chillers such as The Matrix and The Terminator. The emergence of non-human intelligence will undoubtedly create many new jobs. The demand for robotics engineers is projected to grow by as much as 13% over the next two years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. There will be an extra 55,790 new jobs in the field of robotic engineering by 2018, an annual increase of 5% each year, research by Recruiter.com reveals. But at the same time, many manual, middle management and even professional jobs will be under threat from the robotic newcomers. Machines that can understand natural language and communicate in everyday speech will automate 60% of all labour time, and 66% of work in finance and insurance, say researchers at consultants McKinsey & Co. As we struggle to come to terms with the radical changes wrought on our society by the intelligent machines in our midst, new categories of job will emerge to ease relations between the robots and mankind. People with robotic technology skills sets will obviously be in demand. Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US has just become the first college in the country to offer an accredited robotics engineering undergraduate degree to begin to supply tomorrow’s robot creators. But equally sought after will be skilled and imaginative creatives who can help business and governments to decide what robots should – and shouldn’t – be allowed to do, and educators who can teach the machines how to talk to humans without frightening or confusing them. In Germany alone, €200m of state funds has been earmarked for research into the management of future human-to-machine interactions. Programmes like this will be aiming to produce a new breed of human-to-robot communicator in a world where, by 2018, three million workers will have a ‘robo-boss’, according to Gartner Research. Manoj Saxena, a venture capitalist in cognitive computing and big data analytics, says, ‘This powerful technology needs people who can convince the general population that it is for the betterment of society. ‘Without their ability to discuss AI ethics and moral responsibilities, the robotic revolution may falter in the face of fears around both real and perceived threats from an AI apocalypse.’

Job Description

Ethical Technology Advocates will be mankind’s gobetweens with a wave of robots and artificial intelligence applications that will be helping to run our complex and connected world by 2025. One of their key jobs will be to negotiate our delicate relationship with the robots by setting the moral and ethical rules under which the machines – and their makers – operate and exist. Their role will be crucial in ensuring that none of our nightmares about robot world domination ever come true. As Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, says, ‘The most critical next step in our pursuit of AI is to agree on an ethical and empathic framework for its design.’ This will be one of our most pressing concerns as the robot revolution unfolds, says roboticist and artist Alexander Reben – who has invented the first robot that can choose whether or not to inflict pain on a human. ‘I’ve proved that a harmful robot can exist,’ he says. ‘So we will need people who can confront our fears about AI getting out of control.’ Other Ethical Technology Advocates will work as teachers to robots, showing their machine students how to understand the subtle nuances of everyday speech and behaviour that will allow them to interact reliably – and safely – with their human colleagues and bosses. As Fernando Pereira, distinguished researcher in natural language understanding at Google, says, ‘There are so many ambiguities in the way humans speak and act that require a human level of common sense, and years of instruction from our families and friends, to understand. ‘An AI will be completely lost in dealing with all these subtleties unless it has a human teacher to give it a very rich and varied ability to solve problems.’ It will be these human teachers that allow robots to care for us safely. Robot nurses will need to understand our grandfather’s sarcastic sense of humour to treat him appropriately, according to Apparently Apparel’s blog Best Jobs of the Future. Ashleigh Rhea Gonzales, researcher in NLP innovations and software process improvement at Volumes Research, believes a creative arts education will give these workers the critical thinking and decision-making skills necessary to shape commercial and government policy around the introduction of AI and robots. ‘Technical skills such as coding are useful, but having enough business sense to create AI and robot products with a client’s best interests and needs in mind will be vital,’ she says. An Ethical Technology Advocate’s communication skills will be crucial in deciding whether the robot revolution succeeds or fails. It will be their job to convince a sceptical population that the march of the machines is in their best interest even as whole middle-management and semiskilled work categories are destroyed by automation. ‘If the public opinion is that the developers behind this technology are reckless, we’re never going to see fully autonomous systems on the market,’ says Gonzales. ‘Without strong communicators managing development, marketing and damage control when something goes wrong, the robots will essentially fade from popularity.

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