It was dark already and later in the evening and I was alone in my car. It was New Year's Day. On the radio, a show about a future in which humans have nothing but leisure time. A time and place where robots do all the work. But not fiction. No, this was a discussion on CBC Radio One, The Current among futurists and science fiction writers on the impact of robotics on our society today and over the next 20 years.
Listen Here: Futurists Shed Light on the Robotic Revolution
Consider that this reality is all around us. Machines are already doing jobs once performed by humans.
Think about the self-checkout lanes in our grocery stores and all the ways to order your supper at McDonald's. Humans have already conjoined with machines to save or improve their lives. This includes both old technology like pace-makers and new technology like robotic prosthetics. And, as the guests on The Current postulated, some human cohorts are already adapting to life in virtual reality and leisure as a primary lifestyle through gaming.
The good news is that we could all have more time in our lives to focus on a passion, our relationships and enjoying more leisure time. The bad news is that this will be a hard transition for many people whose livelihoods are disrupted before the transformation is a welcome comfort. The ugly news is that this robotic reality may do nothing for the great economic divide between the world's richest and the world's poorest.
Humanity has been hit by these tidal waves of transformation and disruption over and over. When cars were created, we learned how to drive. When the internet arrived, we learned how to Google. When social media arrived, we learned how to Tweet. And yet, there is something fundamentally disturbing about a world in which humans no longer work. What will we do? Will we learn how to play more?
One thing I know for sure, fear of change and disruption does not slow the train down. There is no reason for any leader to ever say that he or she doesn't understand technology. It's table stakes. Resistance only leads to obsolescence.
Leaders, look to your business and consider how data science, artificial intelligence and automation will disrupt your industry and set your strategy. Involve your employees and clients in co-creating the future.
Workers, get interested. Learn new skills. Adapt to the new protocol. And have fun!
And for all us humans, let's keep our hearts open and our eyes wide. We are already elbow-to-elbow creating the world we live in. Every day, every thing we do, we are a sea of individuals with a collective impact. It's up to us whether or not we are moving toward utopia or dystopia. Let's be forces for good in our world.