Get prepared for an autonomous future
Automation has become a buzzword in recent years but, in reality, it’s nothing new. As humans, we’ve always strived to simplify and mechanize things, usually to minimize our own input and make things easier. From inventing the wheel to creating motor vehicles, automation and mechanization has been central to the evolution of society.
So, why has automation become such a hot topic now? The answer lies in the technological advances we’ve made over the last couple of decades. As artificial intelligence (AI) has become a reality and the potential of Big Data is realized, automation has evolved at a rapid rate. By combining these advances, pioneers are taking automation to a whole new level. As a result, our ability to automate processes, mine data and rely on algorithms to make decisions means it is changing the way we live.
While technology has advanced exponentially, we’re still only seeing the beginning of what automation, AI and Big Data can do. With new discoveries and applications being revealed all the time, the potential for automation is limitless. To discover how technology will enhance the way we live in upcoming years, take a look at what an autonomous future could hold:
1. Self-driving vehicles
Self-driving cars have been one of the most publicized aspects of our autonomous future and they’re already being trialed for use on public roads. While modern vehicles have used cruise control to minimize driver input in the past, self-driving cars takes things to another level altogether.
They may still be in development but, depending on trial outcomes, driverless cars will be capable of ‘making decisions’ based on their surroundings. As such, they’ll be able to navigate through traffic, identify the shortest route to your destination, moderate speed and identify potential hazards, as well as applying the brakes in an emergency situation.
While there’s certainly novelty value in the thought of traveling around in a self-driving car, there are practical and safety advances to consider too. It’s estimated that human error or driver-related factors occur in more than 90% of road traffic accidents in the U.S. The algorithms which facilitate driverless vehicles are already known to be far superior to what the human brain can produce, both in terms of the volume of data that can be processed and the speed at which calculations can be made. As a result, the rate of vehicular accidents could decline substantially as we move towards an autonomous future.
When we look at the implications of self-driving cars, it’s easy to see what a major impact they’re likely to have on our day-to-day lives. You’ll claw back a significant amount of personal time when you don’t have to keep your eyes on the road, for example, and ride sharing could increase substantially. As a direct consequence, less traffic could be seen on the roads and less pollution will be generated. With the potential to radically alter our everyday lives, self-driving vehicles are just on element of an autonomous future which are set to drastically alter and enhance the way we live.
Many people have voiced concerns that increased automation equates to fewer jobs, which could lead to an increase in unemployment. Indeed, when organizations can rely on automated processes to operate at greater speeds and with a higher level of accuracy than humans, it does seem that the need for a human workforce will decline. Furthermore, the reduced cost associated with using tech and machinery, as opposed to human labor, is an attractive prospect for commercial businesses.
While the move towards an autonomous future is expected to cause a temporary rise in unemployment, this is not a trend that will necessarily continue. In all likelihood, it is the repetitive, monotonous tasks which are most likely to be replaced by autonomous machinery, potentially giving way to more fulfilling and challenging roles for human employees.
In addition to this, the rise of automation has already created a significant number of jobs and will continue to do so. In fact, we’re already seeing new specialisms and sectors emerge as technology continues to evolve. Just take a look at this blog post to find out how an automated future is giving rise to a new engineering specialism known as advanced mobility.
There’s no doubt that increasing automation will affect employment, but the long-term implications may not be as negative as people assume. In a study of more than 200,000 jobs across 29 countries, PWC concluded that educating and retraining staff will be key to overcoming the impact of automatable jobs on employment rates. With an estimated increase of $15 trillion on the global GDP by 2030 and the potential to create more varied and rewarding roles, the transition towards an autonomous future could in fact benefit employees, staff and workers.
As well as examining the impact of automation on employees, it’s important to consider how an automated future could impact entrepreneurialism. More than 800 new businesses were launched in the U.S. last year and the rate of startups is growing year-on-year. Based on these statistics, it’s clear that an increasing number of people are choosing to launch their own enterprises, rather than join the workforce as employees.
So, will increased automation put a stop to this trend or allow it to flourish? It could be argued that the reduced operating costs of major businesses, facilitated by automation, will make it even more difficult for small businesses to compete, but there are advantages on offer too.
Automated processes are already allowing entrepreneurs to launch businesses on a very limited budget. In simple terms, automated accounting, marketing, data analysis and customer service are allowing small businesses to operate with greater success and efficiency, while substantially reducing their costs.
Due to this, launching a startup and entering new markets is no longer restricted to businesses with major investments behind them. In fact, budding entrepreneurs can launch lucrative commercial enterprises on a bootstrap budget thanks to automation. As a result, we may find that business ownership and entrepreneurialism become more commonplace as we embrace an autonomous future.
Take a look at the evolution of healthcare and you’ll see how well science and technology can intersect. As researchers develop new medications and treatments, tech pioneers are introducing groundbreaking diagnostic tests and innovative medical devices. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that healthcare options are likely to be enhanced as automation becomes more commonplace.
As well as using AI to facilitate more effective preventative healthcare, automation and artificial intelligence may be used to speed up diagnoses and enable patients to access treatment more quickly. What’s more – the ability to tailor treatment based on an individual patient’s DNA or medical history could enhance outcomes and minimize side effects.
When it comes to healthcare management, automation will increase accuracy and speed in the same way it does in other sectors. Data inputting, recordkeeping and scheduling can all be completed without human involvement, for example. In terms of production, medications can be produced more quickly and cheaply when automated processes are used in manufacturing, which potentially makes healthcare more accessible to a wider demographic. In addition to this, the time saved by automation may allow healthcare professionals to devote more time to their patients, thus improving patient experience and optimizing outcomes.
As well as changing the way the healthcare industry operates, an increase in automation could also improve access to medical services, both domestically and internationally. When healthcare services can be delivered at a lower cost, for example, these savings can be passed on to the patient to ensure financial barriers do not prevent them from accessing the medical assistance they need. In developing countries, access to affordable medication and medical facilities could also be improved as automation heralds a new era in affordable healthcare.
Embracing an autonomous future
We tend to assume that automation is something new and different, but automating tasks is something we’ve always done. Today, however, technological advances are widening the scope of what automation can do, which is why it seems like such a ground-breaking concept. When automation is combined with Big Data and AI, for example, the potential for accurate decision-making and subsequent action can transform virtually every aspect of our lives.
While it’s natural to feel a little tentative about what an autonomous future will hold, the reality is that we’re already living in an autonomous world. From using washing machines and dishwashers to relying on personalized email reminders, to using smart thermometers to heat our homes, we embrace automation, AI and Big Data on a daily basis without giving it much thought. As new levels of automation emerge, therefore, it’s likely we’ll welcome new processes and innovations with the same enthusiasm.
Whether you’re a tech fan, a professional engineer or you simply want to enjoy a more streamlined life, the future of automation holds exciting developments. As we transition towards an increasing autonomous future, the question is not so much what will be automated, but what won’t be?