Should we be worried by the rise of the robots?

PUBLISHED: 07:24 07 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:45 07 November 2017

Adam Lazzari: The columnist is worried that the increased use of robotics is at the expense of human interaction.

Adam Lazzari: The columnist is worried that the increased use of robotics is at the expense of human interaction.

� Archant Norfolk 2015

Opinion: The robots may be on the rise, but it should never be at the cost of human interaction, says Adam Lazzari.

‘The robot lawyers are here - and they’re winning’ was the alarming headline of a recent article for the BBC. An artificial intelligence programme created by four Cambridge University students, and known as Case Cruncher Alpha, had outperformed its human counterparts in a recent competition.

The test was straightforward enough, with both human lawyers and their robot equivalent given the basic facts of hundreds of PPI mis-selling cases and then asked to predict whether the Financial Ombudsman would allow a claim in each case. After delving through 775 cases, the humans came out with a success rate of 66.3% compared with a much higher rate of 86.6% for the robot lawyer-a surprising defeat, but should we be worried by artificial intelligence?

Admittedly, artificial intelligence is nothing new and whilst this latest development will no doubt leave tech lovers across the globe marvelling, I can’t help but be a little bit wary of the rise in robotics. “Self-checkout” machines have taken over at our local supermarkets, undoubtedly reducing the need for actual human members of staff. Self-driving cars and lorries are being developed - will this render the need for human lorry drivers obsolete? And now we have Case Cruncher Alpha, a robot capable of performing what is typically seen as one of the most high-calibre professions.

It’s even been suggested that robots could help solve the social care crisis in our county. A couple of months ago, the County’s director of Adult Social Services, James Bullion, suggested that voice-activated “robots” such as the Amazon Echo Dot, could help older people in Norfolk to retain their independence and to prevent loneliness. Whilst he stressed that he would not expect them to replace human care or be the only form of communication, he suggested that they could play a role in social care.

So will there be any jobs safe from the clasps of artificial intelligence? Will we have robots taking our blood pressure at the doctors? Checking our teeth at the dentist? Reading us the news in the morning? What kind of economy will we have if every single profession has been outsourced to a piece of metal? I’m obviously not suggesting that this is the start of some Mad Max-esque armageddon but it’s important to remember how crucial human interaction is, whether it be chatting with the check-out person at your local supermarket or a visit from a friendly carer.

These developments might be a marvel for technology but surely they are a step back for society?

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