In this exclusive, Keith Tan, Founder of Crown Digital, explains how humans and advanced technology can co-exist, what to focus on when upskilling workers who are displaced by robots, and more.

Q How feasible is it to establish a landscape where robots and humans co-live and complement each other?

It's completely feasible to imagine and establish a landscape where humans and advanced technology can co-exist and work together.

First and foremost, a healthy ecosystem needs to be created. The ecosystem needs to be created and built with the right amount of foresight, so as to account for and accommodate the inevitable knock-on effects brought about by automation. In essence, a holistic ecosystem needs to be created for such a landscape to work. There can be no short term solutions, or efforts to address immediate changes, because while they may work for awhile, its not going to work in the long term.

Expectations must also be managed by all members within the ecosystem. Not every task is going to be automated. Technology isn’t going to become a magic solution to everything either. Some tasks will not be able to accomplished by robots, things that are service oriented, complex tasks and requests, etc.

Q What happens to the workers displaced by robots and automation?

Its unavoidable that jobs will be taken over and 'displaced' by robots. But we must also remember that humans are adaptable beings. We’ll always be able to find different tasks to do and areas of specialisation where robots have not been able to cover yet.

As cliched as it may sound, this quality of adaptability will be something that humans will always have an edge over robots and technology, no matter how smart technology can get.

Q Key areas to focus on when upskilling workers who are displaced by robots? (i.e. what are the skills workers need for the future?)

It will be heavily automated tasks that stand to be automated as technology progresses. Therefore, to stay relevant, workers should try to focus and specialise in areas and roles where empathy is needed. Areas where decision making is less clear cut will also be unfillable by robots. As such, workers should be working on and brushing up on jobs where the areas of empathy and decision making are indispensable.

Q What is one pitfall to avoid when implementing such technology?

As mentioned above, one common pitfall is that people constantly view technology and automation as a sort of deus ex machina. That’s not the case. Technology is introduced to solve specific problems, rather than 'problems' in general.

Business owners who are looking to implement technology need to truly understand what is the problem that they are facing or are trying to solve. Technology should not be implemented for the sake of implementation. Users need to be far-sighted, nimble, and not just think in terms of six months or one year.

The worst thing someone can do when implementing technology is to do it just for the gimmicks, and bragging rights of claiming that they’ve implemented automation as part of their business model.

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Photos / Crown Digital Lead image / iStock