Rise of robotics, AI discussed at Davos 2017

Innovation should be used to support and enhance human productivity rather than replacing it altogether, says Kevin Dherman, chief innovation officer at SYSPRO.

Johannesburg, 10 Feb 2017
Read time 2min 30sec

The hot topic of the rise of robotics and its impact on global work forces was again discussed at the latest Davos WEF this year. As Brexit and the US presidential inauguration emphasised the increased volatility of a world in economic and political flux, leaders have highlighted the pursuit of innovation as a driving force for growth.

Yet, according to research conducted by the WEF, over five million jobs will be lost by 2020 as a result of developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological change. WEF also discussed whether the loss of millions of jobs to the latest innovations is undermining social cohesion and leading to a global rise in populist parties.

Upskilling and reskilling of workers will be vital to encourage growth and minimise the impact of automation on industry labour forces. Emphasis needs to be placed on robotics assisting rather than replacing human workers and boosting productivity to enhance growth.

It was stressed that AI development should be guided by the overarching principle that technology should not replace human capability, but rather support it.

Experts further agreed that technology and access to technology should be democratised, and said it was essential to provide people with the relevant knowledge and skills to lay the groundwork for a more egalitarian and sustainable era of cognitive computing.

Kevin Dherman, Chief Innovation Officer at global ERP provider SYSPRO, says automation is nothing new. He emphasised that as the planet's population continues to grow at faster rates, the mixing of the cyber and physical world will lead to more efficient uses of natural resources, whether it is in agriculture or manufacturing.

He says innovation should be used to support and enhance human productivity rather than replacing it altogether, citing the second industrial revolution and electricity, which gave birth to the car assembly line that in turn led to more jobs being created for human labourers.

Dherman further suggests staff should be reskilled or upskilled and deployed to other parts of the business, and innovation should be embraced as a transformative and expansive force.

Using the manufacturing sector as an example, he showcased the use of fully automated "dark warehouses" used to more efficiently and securely stock inventory, using robotic arms and motorised racking and stock picking systems 24/7. Also, the warehouse staff who were replaced by automation have been retrained and redeployed to other parts of the distribution business.

He concludes that the so-called "fourth industrial revolution" and rise of robotics is quickly turning the fantasy of truly smart factories into a productive reality.

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SYSPRO Richard Mc Cormack (+27) 011 461 1000
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