Article from New Zealand.

Dawn of the robot era - a look at how our lives will be in 2040

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Our jobs

Some studies have suggested half of jobs in the US are at risk of being replaced by computers and algorithms in the next 20 years.

Others have put that proportion at just a tenth.

But it's without doubt that robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will have made a profound impact on workplaces as we know them by the time 2040 rolls around.

Even within the next decade, a survey of New Zealand businesses showed just under half of operators thought the industry would be significantly changed by technology.

Those in finance and insurance, exporting and tourism expected the most upheaval.

"In offices, automation is already enabling manual information entry to be done without humans, where it can be prescribed well," explained Professor Bruce MacDonald, a robotics expert at Auckland University's Faculty of Engineering.

There would be fewer keyboard-based jobs, as robotic process automation (RPA) and machine-learning became more sophisticated, and speech recognition technology would likely become good enough to push traditional administration jobs toward automation extinction.

Lawyers would have AI-powered clerks to trawl through case law and regulations for them.
Other office-based professionals would need to be more skilled and knowledgeable in a world where AI could tell us nearly anything we wanted to know.

AI might also be answering emails, setting up meetings, creating documents, checking prices and running stocktakes.
In factories, especially, there would be a gradual shift from human labourer to robot slave as manufacturers found faster, cheaper ways to process goods.

There would be changes to jobs, MacDonald said, which would involve increased production due to more robot workers, but also more human roles for setting up and maintaining the machines.

"I expect the internet will provide much more market intelligence for people and there will be people spending time to figure out how to use this to compete and make good business."

Farms would be revolutionised by a wave of machines and sensors scanning the status of crops, animals and trees, and machinery doing work faster.

MacDonald said this would naturally mean people who lacked training would have fewer opportunities for work.
"For society, I think it means we need to be very careful to train people well for the kinds of jobs that are prevalent - and to retrain people when things change.

"There is potential for social discontent if robots and AI and machine learning are seen to be removing some jobs and people don't have opportunities for something new.

"And if the benefits of increased productivity are kept among the wealthy business owners, the benefits will need to be distributed in good salaries for the retrained workers - we can't really force that but we need to make sure it happens somehow."

So which jobs were safest?

One far-sighted report from MYOB singled out five roles that would prove the ultimate usefulness of human workers: travel curators; lawyers and accountants; real estate agents; artists - and craft beer brewers.

Our homes

The image of robots whizzing around our homes with mops and sponges has been around since The Jetsons hit TV screens in the 1960s.
But MacDonald expected to see machines first doing simple chores - there are now robots designed for vacuuming, and cleaning windows and floors - and later folding washing, and even cooking.

"Already, there are specialised automated kitchen appliances that follow recipes and cook all in one - they automate cooking with some things and are very good at it.

"3D printing of food, I think, will also increase, so that there will be robots that take a mixture and create food - this is being done for cakes in a few places."

Other devices in our homes - televisions, refrigerators, air conditioning, security systems and lighting - would become closer entwined and increasingly linked in to the web as the Internet of Things (IoT) bedded in.

By the start of the next decade, the IoT was expected to consist of some 30 billion objects, with a global market value of $10 trillion.

"The core concept of networking devices wirelessly and sharing intelligence and content among them is still going to be with us in 2040," tech commentator Peter Griffin said. "But their sophistication, and inputs from sensors and devices on the network, will be much greater."

He was also anticipating a long-promised revolution in home entertainment.

"I think augmented reality shows huge promise here already to overlay content on the real world.

"At the moment that involves wearing a clunky headset but by 2040 this will be have long since evolved into a lightweight pair of glasses, contact lenses or, ultimately, images sent directly to our brain, eyes and inner ear from an embedded device."

But the biggest change in personal technology would be whatever succeeded the device that has transformed our entire way of life since the turn of the century - the smartphone.

"What will it look like?

"If you are being conservative, lightweight wearable technology with heads-up displays to show you content.
"If you are being radical, embeddable implants that are powered by the body and that can augment our senses, helping us, see, think, hear and detect things like radio signals more effectively.

"At home, it will similarly be the embedding of cheap sensors and intelligence into everything we interact with to make our lives more comfortable and our homes smarter."

Our roads

Another change to your home might be your garage - or lack of one.

Instead, you'll use your smartphone to hail a driverless car to come to your address and climb in - perhaps with other riders or commuters.

The journey wouldn't take much longer because the fleet management software dispatching the vehicles selected other riders on - or close to - your route.

"The vehicle that comes to pick you up could be a car, a van or a bus, depending on how many other riders are on your route," said Michael Cameron, a lawyer and researcher in legal and regulatory issues around driverless cars.

"Because of this, the distinction between taxis and buses will begin to blur. Empty buses will become a thing of the past."

With ride-sharing fleets becoming so cheap and easy, fewer people would own personal vehicles, and those who do would have the option to reduce their costs by sending their car out to earn its keep in a driverless fleet when they're not using it.

But before that became a reality, regulations and other mechanisms would have to ensure safety.

In recent years, the latest vehicles have acquired all sorts of driver-assistance features.

They can now steer themselves, keep pace with traffic, brake when necessary and change lanes.

But even the most advanced vehicles still required a human driver to supervise and be ready to take over, Cameron said.
That all changed in 2017.

"This will be the year we look back on as the year that the paradigm shifted."

In July, Audi announced the new A8 is capable of driving itself without supervision on the highway.

In November, Waymo announced it had been testing autonomous minivans on public roads in Arizona without a supervising safety driver behind the wheel.

Cameron believed needless regulation could hold back innovation - as happened with the Audi A8, which hadn't been approved to operate on European roads.

"Regulators in Europe are working hard to reform the relevant regulations, but they are already lagging behind the technology and holding it up."

People often thought driverless vehicles couldn't operate effectively without being able to communicate with other driverless vehicles, meaning they couldn't share the road with human-driven vehicles, but Cameron didn't see any basis for the fears.

"They will be perfectly capable of operating in normal human-driven traffic using just their sensors and GPS, and this will bring tremendous safety and other advantages.

"But once you have some lanes or roads that are reserved for driverless vehicles then this brings even more benefits into play.

"It allows for even greater safety, and it also allows vehicles to co-ordinate with each other and drastically reduce congestion."

Yet there was always the chance things could go the other way.

"By decreasing the cost of travel it is possible that they could drastically increase the number of trips people take.
"If their introduction isn't managed well it is possible they could actually increase congestion."

Our health

Imagine being prescribed medication matched to your own genome, which, of course, your GP would have on file.
Advances in sequencing technology has driven the cost of downloading our DNA from tens of millions of dollars to close to $1000.

Soon, it could cost less to sequence your entire genetic profile than for the water to flush your toilet.
"I think we will all have our genomes sequenced routinely as part of our medical records, and the relevant bits and pieces will be used to guide our therapies a lot more," said Auckland University professor of cell signalling Peter Shepherd.

With this revolution would come another: splicing and snipping faulty and disease-causing genes, and inserting functional ones with new gene-editing technology like the CRISPR-Cas9 system.

In a recent discussion paper, an expert panel convened by Royal Society Te Aparangi explored potential ways gene editing might be used to cure or prevent disease in a person, or reduce disease risk or enhance biological function in offspring.

For instance, there were methods available to avoid the transmission of disease controlled by a single gene, notably the BRCA1 gene, which is known to raise the risk of cancer.

If future laws allow it, a patient might employ in vitro fertilisation and use CRISPR to revert any mutation-bearing embryos back to a version of the gene not associated with the disease.

Shepherd expected the biggest breakthroughs would come in the areas of modulating our immune systems.

"We've already started down that route with learning how to reprogramme our immune system so we can better fight cancer, and also a lot of other diseases that range from immune diseases to inflammatory ones."

By 2040, he expected many of the cancer subtypes would have become manageable - and in some cases curable - thanks to fast-developing innovations like CAR T-cell therapy.

Increasingly, we were also making promising strides against complex neurodegenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.

"The big diseases that will remain a challenge are going to be things like diabetes and obesity, where we have an interaction between our genes and the environment we live in."

Even as soon as 2025, the World Obesity Federation projects the number of severely obese New Zealanders will have ballooned from 222,300 to 325,700.

Added to that was the growing health burden, the wide-ranging implications of climate change and the threat of antimicrobial resistance, which, without urgent action, could be kill 10 million people a year globally by 2050.

Back to robots, Shepherd saw a role for AI in our hospitals, feeding clinicians a wealth of information to help treat and diagnose patients.

Writing in the New Zealand Medical Journal, two Northland clinicians recently suggested AI would soon perform a significant amount of the diagnostic and treatment decision-making traditionally performed by doctors.

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