Humans vs Robots, a series of Podcasts produced by NPR’s Planet Money Podcast that are nothing short of amazing. The first one I listened to on the way to presentation in Saskatoon, I used one of the stories in my presentation. It was that good!
As the human race progresses, we invent easier ways to do things. The lightbulb put the candle makers out of business. They were outraged. Why wouldn’t people support the candle makers anymore? Doesn’t society have a duty to support the candle makers?!?
The car put horse and carriage drivers out of business. The Better Business Bureau put the snake oil salesmen out of business. Cassette tape put the record stompers out of business, the digital camera put Kodak out of business, Napster put 60% of the record industry out of business, Google put the phone book out of business, what do you think will be next? Are you in that industry? Better yet, are you in the industry that’s going to displace a current market?
Dr. Nick Bontis talking about industry displacement and why you need to retool, relearn, re-certify, re-professionalize to stay relevant.
The Planet Money Podcast
In this podcast they lineup three competitions of the epic showdown, HUMANS vs ROBOTS!
Battle 1: Who can fold a towel better?. At MIT there’s a project that has students developing an algorithm that allows a robot to reach into a load of laundry, grab a towel, and fold it in to a prefect square. The students did just that, but it took the robot 18 minutes to complete the task. They also had a young child try folding a towel. It took less than a minute.
Humans 1 Robots 0
Battle 2 was Ellie. Ellie is a computer program that interacts with people. It was made for people with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression. The theory was that some people just won’t open up to another human, what they’ve been through sometimes it too traumatic to tell someone. But it’s easier to talk to a machine that won’t judge you.
This part in the podcast is worth listening to alone. They have a war vet from the Canadian Military talking about his experience with Ellie, it was a positive one. His story is a moving one, I won’t ruin it for you. Go listen to it!
Human 1 Robots 1
Battle 3; who can write faster a machine or a journalist from the BBC?
Yup, they’ve created a machine to write the news. All the major websites (Reuters, Yahoo news, Huffington Post, etc.) have stories created by WordSmith, a software program that can write news articles. All you need is a companies annual report (the competition in the story was based on Denny’s annual report) and WordSmith puts together an article that isn’t fancy but gets the point across.
The result? WordSmith took two minutes to finish the articles, the journalist took just over seven minutes however the journalist had a little more flare to his article.
The judges had to give it to the robots.
Humans 1 Robots 2
This is a story about a small town in the US that’s slowly being taken over by factories, and no, not traditional manufacturing factories, robotically run factories. This is completely changing the job landscape for many people in North America. It’s scary but you can’t stop technology, some how you have to get a head of the curve.
The future of restaurants will involve this thing called Ziosk. It’s like an iPad for your table where you can order on, get a drink refill, and order dessert. What will happen to waitresses and waiters? They interviewed some of the staff at an Applebee’s that has Ziosk’s. The wait staff hate it, not surprisingly, but it shortens table turnaround (very valuable in casual dining) and increases dessert sales by 30%.
Just think, you may be ordering your next meal from a machine, who will you tip? Do machines need tips? The future will tell.
This podcast is a fictional story of “the last job”. It’s kind of funny, but also somewhat erie. What will we do in the future? We won’t all be working. What will we spend our time doing? It’s an interesting thought.