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  • Writer's pictureJoana Lenkova

"Fauxtomation" and When Will the Robots Strike?

All this talk about AI...

I wonder almost daily, when the promised day will come? When will the Algorithm Almighty come and replace me at work and do all the tedious data processing, so that I can focus on something more, well, important.

Surely, a robot will be a million times quicker than me, while eradicating the human error factor. Me on the other hand... I have an array of options: dedicate more time to finding creative solutions to serious problems, design a prototype of something amazing that may help cure disease, I could also be painting, doing yoga, chatting with my loved ones, saving the world from an alien invasion, etc. Point is, possibilities are endless. I don't know many people whose big dream is to stare at Excel and analyse data. That's more of a necessary evil and not the desired end goal.

So why is there a "robot opposition"?

The legend has it, that robots will replace us, take our jobs, we will be left with no income, and if we don't starve, we will certainly be killed by the autonomous machines, who will join the forces of the Dark Side out of the blue.

What is the reality?

"Fauxtomation", a term coined by the Canadian documentary film-maker Astra Taylor, describes it perfectly. The truth is, robots are not replacing the need for a human effort, there is even more work to be done. But who is doing the work and are we wrongly defining "work" only as something we get paid for?

She goes to give a few examples, where in fact you, the customer, is doing all the work that once an employee was paid for: you buy your airline tickets online, you check in on your mobile app, you print your own boarding pass, you check in your luggage yourself at the airport... same goes for the self-service checkout at the supermarket. The actions are still there, only the work is distributed differently and now you are doing a lot of it, and you are doing it for free.

Robots have not taken over just yet, but why do we need to talk about them now?

Global unemployment rate fell to its lowest at the end of last year, employment rates across the developed world are rising, so facts are showing, robots are not taking over just yet.

However, now is the right time to think about what our world should look like and realise that it is up to us, humans, to ensure the robots are here to help us and not destroy us. So the right questions we should be asking are: How do we need to prepare now for the workforce of the future? What are the skills we need to be learning now, to ensure we are adequate in 3-5-10 years time? Would Universal Income be the answer or do we need another system to provide for our basic needs? What are the implications? Is cash completely irrelevant and what will replace it? How can technology help us save our planet, eradicate hunger, stop drought, leading to mass migrations and wars? What are the legal systems and regulations we need to put in place to ensure the technology we build now is used to help us and not to destroy us?

But really, what we are talking about here is focus on the humans first. And there is plenty of thinking and acting to be done so that we don't create the self-fulfilling prophecy we are so afraid of - the Robots taking over!


See more on "Fauxtomation"

Read the FT article: Why the Rise of Robots Hasn't Happened Just Yet

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

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