Should We Fear The Robot Economy?

Robot Economy

The information age, driven by mass adoption of the internet and the mobility trend, has carried us to the precipice of something truly exciting. The speed of innovation has increased dramatically. We may be reaching the limits of Moore’s law, but human collaboration on a grand scale and machine learning are still relatively new, and it’s not yet clear what kind of future they will bring.

If we can harness big data, realise the Internet of Things, and move towards greater automation and artificial intelligence, then we should emerge from this disruptive phase in great shape. But we can’t focus only on the future. We have to be mindful about where we’re coming from.

Perfect Storm Of Disruption

The enterprise is already struggling to integrate and capitalise on the latest technological innovations. The pace and complexity is creating serious integration headaches and leaving little room for businesses to figure out how to mature their offerings and best serve consumers. A recent Prescouter report enumerated some of the disruptive technologies that are changing the world.

  • Big Data: The report suggested that big data will be a $50 billion market by 2017. But we can’t analyse the information as quickly as we’re collecting it, yet. When we develop the capability to process this information in real-time we’ll be able to make informed decisions much faster. Human capabilities will not be limited by physical attributes.
  • Machine Learning and AI: We’re already looking at a $20.5 billion industry. We’re automating business processes and tasks, developing machine learning, and improving predictive capabilities. This is inevitably going to displace service-based jobs, just like farming and manufacturing before them.
  • Internet of Things: There will be 50 billion connected objects by 2022, which, coupled with AI, will be contributing $2 trillion in value to the global economy. Most data is knowledge developed by humans right now, but that’s about to shift as the IoT comes online.
  • The robot economy: The impact is difficult to accurately predict, but according to research from the McKinsey Global Institute the automation of knowledge work could have an economic impact of between $5 and $7 trillion by 2025. Many people fear that this will mean job losses.

As we shift to a robot economy, we initially lose mundane and repetitive jobs, but with AI that could change. As devices, machines and robots begin to operate more and more without the need for human intervention, we may see incredible benefits in the short term. For example, driverless cars could cut 1.5 million driver-caused deaths down to zero. We need to evolve, to reinvent ourselves and create new services, building differentiated capabilities on top of products. It could be a painful process but humans are nothing if not adaptive.

Consumerisation & ‘Bring Your Own Cloud’

BYOC (Bring your own cloud) or also known as ‘Personal Clouds’ has proliferated the consumer world as users demand access to their apps and content across all of their devices. Personal cloud computing is expected to achieve $9.5B compared to just $400M in 2009, at an average annual increase of 88% according to Gigaom.com.

Many organisations need to evolve their User Device and Data Policies, to spell out specifically what is and isn’t allowed. They also need to protect intellectual property from leaking into a personal cloud. Another study revealed that 80% of corporate IT organisations are familiar with BYOD, only 20% are very familiar or familiar with BYOC.

Within the enterprise world this presents a challenge in securing data on devices and limiting data to where data should reside. Most consumers are familiar with iCloud and in fact many of today’s MDM (Mobile Device Management) solutions help contain data through either one-way passing or wrap technology which prevents unauthorised data share.

For example, Fujitsu provisions a secure container on mobile devices. Within this container is secure email, secure applications, and secure browsing. Citrix Workspace Suite, delivered through Fujitsu’s Workplace Anywhere solutions, provides a secure container where data can be stored/shared to a backend enterprise hosted cloud via a technology called ShareFile.

BYOC presents a threat to many corporations as users can access personal content directly from their corporate environment and vice versa they can post content that might be IP in nature to their personal space outside of company control or view. The best approach is to have a Corporate Device policy that dictates which technologies are acceptance and then controls to limit corporate data from moving outside of the corporate controlled domain. If one must have a personal cloud, it is best to secure it using an enterprise hosted solution.

Legacy Skills

As we become more dependent on automation and technology, there’s a danger that we’ll start to distance ourselves from basic human survival skills. It’s a subconscious fear that we see repeatedly played out in movies. But perhaps there’s an opportunity there for businesses to hold onto those key traits and develop them. A legacy skill set could allow for differentiation based on retention of knowledge. We don’t need to fear the robot economy, but we do need to plan for it, and part of that is about finding a balance between where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Nicholas Lee is Head of Global Offerings, EUS Managed Infrastructure Services for Fujitsu, the leading Japanese information and communication technology company. Approximately 162,000 Fujitsu people support customers in more than 100 countries.