Bill Gates: People Don't Realize How Many Jobs Will Soon Be Replaced By Software Bots

I work in a robotics lab and this subject came up a few weeks ago. One idea has been tossed around a lot, by many people outside our lab, is that an entirely new service industry will pop up. Even with the best in 3D robotic vision, machine learning, and "AI" there are still certain tasks that are overly complex for a robot to do perfectly every time, yet are easy for a human.

How do you fill this gap?

We expect call centers that people work at, where robots call in with problems. Imagine if you will, a new Dyson robotic vacuum cleaning your apartment. It has camera technology and fully maps out your apartment. That's awesome. It even knows the gap between your couch and end table is too small for it to get in and out of so it won't even try. Except, this morning, you moved your end table. It is now in the middle of your living room. The edge following algorithm the vacuum uses as it was going around your couch now has it stuck. The flap was up so it drove under the couch, knocking stuff over as it goes in, and now nothing makes sense sensor wise. It is completely dark, surrounded by 4 walls, and a ceiling that is dragging against it.

How do you program a robotic vacuum to know it is under a couch?

You could developed a series of models that describe what it is like for the vacuum to be trapped, but then what? Tell it to go back the way it came? It can't now. As it drove under the couch your stupid collection of boxes that you keep in case you ever need to ship something but never do, that you keep between the end table and couch fell over. The robot doesn't know that. Hell, you don't even know that. You forgot it was there because the last box you shipped was your old HTC Wizard you sold on eBay.

So what do we do?

Well right now, the robot flails uncontrollably and eventually dies.

What if, instead, the robot calls for help. Not from you. Your time is far too valuable, that's why a robot vacuums your apartment. This robot calls a support line where a real human answers. It takes a look at the sensors and says, "Stupid thing is under a couch again." and manually controls it back until the living room. Runs a rescan of the room and life continues on.

That's honestly what I expect to see in not too long. Maybe not with robot vacs, maybe not with your automated lawn mower, but maybe that self driving taxi.

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