Humans and machines will work together, sooner than later

A report from Dell says that partnering with machines will become even more common in the future, even if business leaders are still foggy on the idea.

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Erin Carson
2 min read

You'd better get used to working with machines. 


In the future, could your colleague be a robot?

There's a good chance the answer is "yes," according to a survey of 3,800 business leaders. 

A new report from Dell, out Tuesday, reveals that 82 percent of those surveyed predict humans and robots will work together on teams within five years. The study, conducted by Vanson Bourne, explored the impact of robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, augmented reality and cloud computing on society by 2030. 

"We're starting to get the juices flowing around this notion of a tighter integration between humans and machines," said Matt Baker, senior vice president of strategy and planning for Dell EMC.

Baker cited Chitale Dairy in India as an example of how such human-machine collaboration might work. Chitale works with small dairy farms that have microchipped their cows. Chitale collects data about things like whether the cows are eating enough or need to be inoculated, and uses that information to help those farmers improve their cows' well-being. 

Another example: NYC Department of Social Services is working with Dell to build apps the homeless (most of whom have smartphones) can use to secure beds in shelters. That avoids having to wait in long lines -- time they could spend looking for work, said Baker. These are tech-enabled processes that relatively few people would object to.

"Human-machine partnerships will enable people to find and act on information without interference of emotions or external bias, while also exercising human judgment where appropriate," researchers wrote in their report, entitled Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future

But it's the integration of more-advanced technologies -- and how such automation will affect jobs -- that inspires uncertainty. As an article in the MIT Technology Review pointed out earlier this month, different studies have released a range of projections for jobs that will be lost to automation, ranging from a few million to billions. Depending on which study you read, could you expect AI and robots to usher in a new, more efficient way of life, or put us on the path to our destruction, said Baker.

Those surveyed were split on how some of these integrations will work. Forty-nine percent expect to be more productive through collaboration. Fifty percent think automated systems will free people's time. Another 42 percent surveyed think they'll see increased job satisfaction as machines do tasks they don't want to.

"Business professionals are still unsure, and frankly torn, between [whether] this a good thing or a bad thing," Baker said.

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