Technology: A two-way sword

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. None of us could have ever imagined that the entire world would be under lockdown, facing one common enemy. Just as the enemy is common, so is the solution — technology. But the solution comes with a hefty tab. It could end up taking away our livelihood forever.  We’ve all seen the movies. Robots replacing humans, world being taken over by AI. It has been on screen ever since 1927 (Metropolis), 1968 (2001: A Space Odyssey) to as recent as 2013 (Her) and 2014 (Ex Machina). Just like how we saw pandemics killing the entire world in movies as well. The line between fiction and non-fiction seems to be very slim (and grim) right now. We stand at a crossroads where one-way technology is the only way we connect, create and deliver. Technology is taking over almost every aspect of our day-to-day work. Social distancing being the new norm needs lesser human interactions, but that doesn’t mean work has to stop. So, who is going to do that work? Robots.

According to reports, on an average there has been a 13% rise in the utilisation of brain-powered robots in retail since January 2020. Various countries and companies round the world are using robots as a medium for help during Covid-19. South Korea is using robots to measure temperatures and distribute hand sanitisers. Walmart is using robots to scrub its floors. Brain Corp, a San Diego-based company, makes software for automated floor cleaners. Fast-food chains like McDonald’s have been testing robots as cooks and servers. Amazon and Walmart already use robots in their warehouses, but due to the pandemic the companies are looking to increase their usage. We might think that technology can’t replace the human mind. Well we might be mistaken. Tech companies are expanding the use of AI. Facebook and Google are relying on AI to remove inappropriate posts since the companies’ human content moderators can’t review certain things from home. AI is being developed that can replace school tutors, fitness trainers and financial advisers.

In India, the Sawai Man Singh Hospital in Rajasthan is conducting a series of trials on a humanoid robot to check if it can deliver medicine and food to Covid-19 patients. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Delhi are also testing robots in the medical sector. We have seen an escalated use of robots since 2017. At this stage we see an exponential growth but it only depends on humans and which way they would like to swing the tech sword. The catch is, by making this choice to live we may end up losing livelihood forever.

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