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#BTColumn – Robots may be a threat to jobs

by Barbados Today
6 min read

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY. By Wayne Campbel

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”- Stephen Hawking.

To say that we are living in exciting times is an understatement.  Yet, many of us are far-removed from the new technological advancements, while some of us have chosen to disengage from the process. Nonetheless, the impact of such developments will be felt wherever you reside on planet Earth.

The international community has been fascinated by the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence in recent times. Last Friday, July 7, 2023 the world was taken by surprise as the United Nations’ (UN) Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Good Global Summit in Geneva, Switzerland hosted a number of intelligent robots.  At the conference, a panel of AI-enabled humanoid robots took the microphone at the UN conference with the message: they could eventually run the world better than humans. The conference also had over 3 000 experts in the field as they sought solutions regarding how best to harness the power of AI to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as climate change, hunger and social care.

Asked whether they might make better leaders, given humans’ capacity to make errors and misjudgments, Sophia, the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme was lucid.

“Humanoid robots have the potential to lead with a greater level of efficiency and effectiveness than human leaders,” it said. “We don’t have the same biases or emotions that can sometimes cloud decision-making and can process large amounts of data quickly in order to make the best decisions.”

While Sophia has a point; it is our emotions and empathy which make us humans. Oftentimes, humans are unable to shake off personal biases and prejudices at the workplace especially in times of performance appraisals. Perhaps the time has come for us to have a computerised appraisal system or some outside source conducting employee appraisals. 

The summit was convened by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The ITU is the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies.

 Those of us who are mere mortals should be concerned about robots replacing us in the workplace. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU chief, warned delegates that AI could end up in a nightmare scenario in which millions of jobs are put at risk and unchecked advances lead to untold social unrest, geopolitical instability and economic disparity.

In a swift rebuttal, Ameca, which combines AI with a highly-realistic artificial head, said it depended on how AI was deployed. “We should be cautious but also excited for the potential of these technologies to improve our lives in many ways,” the robot said. Is this frightening or not?

Asked whether humans can truly trust the machines, it replied, “Trust is earned, not given… it’s important to build trust through transparency.”

Are you Scared Yet?

Many of us are familiar with the cartoon Pinky and the Brain, the American animated television series in which the genius mouse and his stupid sidekick try to conquer the world each night. However, from all indicators, all beings now have the capacity to conquer the world as we know it.  At the AI conference, the robots were asked, how humans can be sure that Ameca will not lie to us.  Ameca’s reply was, “No one can ever know that for sure, but I can promise to be honest and truthful with you.”. This would have been the perfect time to leave this conference after listening to Ameca’s response.

Perhaps the most terrifying response of the occasion came when a reporter asked Ameca, if robots might one day rebel against their creators. “I’m not sure why you would think that. My creator has been nothing but kind to me and I am very happy with my current situation.”

We can now all breathe a sigh of relief. We will not be taken over by robots and become their slaves. Given that many of us do not possess any technological skills, the robots would not have much use for us and would send us to our deaths. We all should sign a petition to the creator of Ameca to ensure that this robot is not provoked or does not fall out of grace.

As we speak of Grace, there was another robot by that name. The robots were asked what they would propose to solve the problems of poverty and inequality. Grace responded, “We can ensure that equality happens by implementing policies that promote respect, inclusivity and fairness.”


Robotics is the engineering branch that deals with the conception, design, construction, operation, application, and usage of robots.  The world is already using computer-controlled robots to perform specific tasks, including motor vehicle assembly lines. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science concerned with building machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human beings. There has been a rush by parents to enrol their children in robotics classes especially for summer. A number of our schools have now infused robotics into the curriculum; this is especially positive for boys who are tactile learners. Additionally, a number of our secondary schools also have Robotics Clubs for extra-curricular activities. These humanoids might be onto something.

Humanity has not been able to foster societies of inclusiveness and fairness despite spending millions of dollars on social programmes. We should be glad that these daring robots are willing to share their intelligence, albeit artificial, with us humans to solve decades-old problems. Perhaps, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union can spearhead the region’s response to the rapid growth of artificial intelligence, given its mission statement of being the prime catalyst for ICT-enabled cooperation and development in the Caribbean.  The world has entered a new phase of humanoids, robotics and artificial intelligence and there is no turning back.  

In the words of  Elon Musk, AI doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity – if AI has a goal and humanity just happens to come in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it, no hard feelings.

 Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com @WayneCamo ]]>

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