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Where are smart machines heading in 2015?

Rebecca Merrett | Dec. 19, 2014
Job losses, more driverless car trials and drones for delivering goods


Job losses will be on the cards for information workers next year, while more countries will trial driverless cars and drones for delivering goods, analysts predict.

"2015 will be the year we start to see information worker job losses because of intelligent systems," said Forrester analyst Tim Sheedy.

He sees more telcos, banks and insurance companies adopting IBM's Watson supercomputer and other artificial intelligence and cognitive computing systems.

"It's probably those three sectors we will most likely see job losses. A telco, for example, might replace a thousand call centre staff with an AI capability. That's the sort of initiatives we will see in 2015.

"That's big because it changes economies. Those in the white collar space always felt we couldn't be replaced by computers, and we were wrong," he said.

Gartner analyst Kenneth Brant's forecast is that by 2020 the majority of knowledge workers' career paths will be disrupted by smart machines.

Some jobs will require humans to collaborate with smart machines where they are able to advance in their role much more quickly, he said. "So think about a doctor who is able to use a smart machine to keep abreast of the deluge of medical literature and updates that are published.

"Quite frankly a human has a very difficult time practising medicine and staying up to date on all of the findings, whether those are in medical journals or clinical trials or advances in technology and medicines."

Clerical type workers are also likely to be threatened by smart machines, he said. "If you are a law clerk or someone in a law firm who does discovery, perhaps that's one of the functions where smart machines will negatively impact your career."

Automation will also branch out beyond it's typical place in manufacturing, defence and agriculture, Brant said. For example, automated dispensing machines for medicines and robotic pharmacies are taking off, he said.

"There's also the consumer-oriented robot that is kind of like a home companion. These are more popular in Japan then they are in the west. They are used to do work around the house, and it's much more general purpose than the purpose-built [machines] in manufacturing or defence."

When it comes to driverless cars, Alistair Leathwood, executive director at TNS Australia, sees more countries undergoing trials such as the UK in January 2015. He said Australia may also follow and trial driverless cars.

"I don't think you are going to see anything like mass market driverless cars in Australia next year, but I think you might well see a few trials.

"Countries are passing laws in preparation for an environment that might happen in the future, and that feels like a sensible, proactive action. It feels a bit like when governments got together to agree what would happen to mining on the moon, it's not because it's about to happen, it's because you probably should have a set of rules in place for when it does happen," he said.


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