ONE of the things that is particularly worrying to the BPO industry of the Philippines right now is the strong protectionist stance of the new US president Donald Trump.
Apparently, he is zealous to make America first, and frowns on many attempts of outsourcing various manufacturing and service jobs outside the United States. But many editorials got it right—these jobs are not going back to the US. If they are not going out, then it is because these jobs can be done soon better and cheaper by robots, and artificial intelligence.
Last Christmas, I visited a bar in China. Instead of using bartenders, they have two robots. You input your order into the computer, and these robots will mix up the right tequila or mojito for you, I guess, even more precisely than any physical bartender.
Of course, almost every week, we read of another breakthrough in driverless cars, probably one of the biggest shifts going to happen in the next five years. There have already been driverless buses deployed in some cities, and Japan has made noises that come Olympics 2020 in Tokyo, there will be hordes of driverless taxis serving tourists. It is going to be a game-changer in Tokyo, which hosted the Olympics for the first time in 1964. They welcomed visitors with the new bullet train, Shinkansen, which, at that time, started operations only a few days before the Olympics. Of course, it’s worrisome that there are probably over a billion people who drive, and many of those rely on driving to earn a living. What will happen to them?
There is now much talk that courier and parcel delivery might be much faster by simply using drones.
In the last three weeks, I was watching the China Super Brain 2017 series. This series, now on its fourth season, pitches some of the best geniuses that can be found in China and all over the world. This year, it is different. In every episode, it pitches some of the geniuses against artificial intelligence, some robots that were developed by some research outfits in China, notably Baidu, which is the biggest search engine in China, akin to Google of the United States.
So far, it is quite frightening. In the contests that involved face recognition and voice recognition, the robot has been winning. As of the third episode, the score stands at two wins by the robot and one tie.
Of course, we always dismissed that. After all, this is nothing new; we have watched for over 50 years in the movies wherein artificial intelligence and robots compete with humans, and it is always the humans who win. But I guess robotics and artificial intelligence have come of age, and are already maturing enough that some of the best technical minds are advising caution. We can’t just believe the movies; real life, unfortunately, is very different. In almost every movie, the robots can never fire and hit the human actor, or even drive their spaceship properly, but we know in real life that that is not true. There is unlikely any human that can fire, react or drive more accurately than a robot can.