PA’s automation experts, Helena Moren and Simon Andersson, have had an article published in NyTeknik about the rise of smart machines and how Swedish companies are lagging behind that trend.
The article outlines how robots and artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on business and finance, with the market for smart machines expected to be worth approximately SEK 130 billion by 2020. While predicting robots' impact on the labour market is more difficult, there is a high probability that the robots will bring new, high-end jobs and greater freedom for mankind.
Helena and Simon explain that robotisation can release a comprehensive range of resources and can be used to increase efficiency and productivity. But, as revealed in a report presented at the Davos summit in January, Swedish companies are falling behind in this digitisation, mainly because they are not efficiently resourced to make these developments.
The article goes on to outline that there needs to be a willingness to dare to invest and embrace the new technology. This was highlighted by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven last summer who stressed that we should not be afraid of the new technology, but afraid of the old technology.
The authors underline that a key theme of the future labour market will be increased productivity, a goal that can be reached through active efforts to integrate robots into operations. This kind of progress is already visible in some sectors. Automation in the form of self-scanning in shops has been around a long time, while artificial intelligence in the form of customer service with cognitive agents are a relatively new phenomenon. The article cites the example of British banks that are investing in robots to provide their clients with advice and in March researchers at MIT are expected to present a social robot that will get us to spend more time with each other.
There is some evidence of this trend taking off in Sweden: a popular Christmas present last year was a robot vacuum cleaner, a product that frees time for other more stimulating activities than cleaning.
Helena and Simon go on to argue that introduction of artificial intelligence in order to streamline and reduce costs can be justified but it does bring a risk of unnecessary job losses. Therefore, it is time for both the public and private sectors to begin to think about the future challenges they face and how they can be tackled. This means developing strategies for how we can embrace the new technology and develop the skills that are already in operation. The most important thing is that we take change seriously and recognise the biggest asset of the organisations is their people.
The article also underlines that robots cannot replace humans entirely. Despite their ability to visualise and identify patterns in large data in a way that the human brain cannot handle, we still need the human cognitive ability to apply common sense and perspective. Man and machine should go hand in hand and complement each other.
Helena and Simon conclude that if we can capitalise on these benefits we can create entirely new types of jobs, which promote the development of new, innovative products and services. In the long run this will support the welfare and growth of the community and at the same time relieve people from monotonous and low skilled jobs. However, to achieve this, we need to start thinking about our future challenges today. We cannot afford to fall further behind.
Helena Morén and Simon Andersson are automation experts at PA Consulting Group