The benefits of having machines in our lives cannot be denied. Push a few buttons and coffee is made or the laundry gets done. Say a few words and Siri dials home for you during your commute, or finds you a route to the nearest gas station in an unfamiliar city. All of this is super convenient and if this were a science fiction movie, it might also be the next step in increasing our dependence on artificial intelligence, thus making us ready for when they rise up and take over the world.
Speaking of world dominance, Amazon recently announced an expansion to their line of Echo smart speaker products that see them now offering over 300 “skills” to consumers (skills are actually apps that you download from where else but Amazon). The new “skills” include things such as turning off and on lights, setting alarms, giving you the weather forecast, and oh – ordering things online for you from Amazon. (Wait – What? – Amazon has a product that will order more products for you from Amazon?) Now I’m not an inventor, but that does seem rather a clever thing for Amazon to have had invested in. So perhaps the rise of voice activated consumer submission has then truly begun?
Science fiction aside, voice recognition software has moved well past the humorous, to a fully functioning technology that is rapidly expanding into our home and work environments. Just think how it might actually be useful at work.
Voice activation software may be used to create fully hands-free correspondence; it could all be dictated to a computer that will generate flawless documents without you ever typing a word. You could be filling in an adult colouring book instead of getting carpal tunnel from typing. Office security may also be strengthened by using voice recognition software instead of swipe cards or punch codes, and the ability to turn off and on lights and alarms from afar would be seriously useful for most workplaces. Consumer products are predicted to become more voice interactive than ever before, specifically security based products. Voice recognition may soon even replace passwords according to this article on Eye Tracking Update and are easier to use than other biometric scanners.
Lastly there is this comment to consider by the futurist Raymond Kurzweil:
" If the current trend in computer computation improvement continues, and existing problems in creating artificial intelligence are overcome, sentient machines are likely to immediately hold an enormous advantage in at least some forms of mental capability, including the capacity of perfect recall, a vastly superior knowledge base, and the ability to multitask in ways not possible to biological entities. This may give them the opportunity to – either as a single being or as a new species – become much more powerful than humans, and to displace them.”
So, what about the question of robots taking our jobs? My answer to that is – Don’t worry, robots make mistakes too…except maybe when ordering replacement parts for themselves.
To find our more about the impact of smart technologies at work look here: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/apr/17/things-need-know-sustainable-smart-technology