The rise of the robots

The idea of robots taking over the world is as old as the hills. It’s up there with alien invaders and Frankenstein’s monster.

But there’s no denying that automation is becoming more prevalent in modern society – robots have been used in factories for years, sorting parts, assembling machinery and transporting goods around the shop floor.

And yes, there have been huge innovations in terms of digitally enabled healthcare, agriculture and ‘smart cities’.

But is the rising fear (media driven, admittedly) that the advent of driverless cars, drones that can fly where eagles fear to, and artificial intelligence could render human labour redundant justified?

Emma McGuigan, managing director of Accenture thinks not – but, she says, embracing digital transformation is a ‘must’ for businesses that want to thrive.

“It’s important to understand that intelligent automation is not a quest to replace people in the workforce,” she says in Management Today.  “Instead it is more about changing the way businesses operate by complementing and augmenting human capabilities, such as cognitive and social skills, with intelligent machines and software. Indeed, intelligent automation is one of five trends picked up in Accenture’s 2016 annual Technology Vision report.

“We may be living in an era with a technological focus but the most successful leaders will in fact be those who place their people first. Ultimately this means moving towards a different kind of workplace – one that ensures people can easily adapt to working alongside machines and artificial intelligence.”

Machines can take on tasks that are repetitive, mechanistic, dangerous or which require very precise data analysis, Emma says. This in turn will drive higher productivity, improve scale, quality and business adaptability – and, this writer suggests, it will free up mere mortals to do what they do best – create, innovate and collaborate.