Adobe Digital Dialogue

Adobe Asia Pacific Think Tank: The role of machines in the future of work

Imag­ine a future in which our dai­ly inter­ac­tions with machines, robots and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence out­weigh our con­tact with peo­ple. In the work­place of the future per­haps team mem­bers will use tech­nol­o­gy to enable or aug­ment abil­i­ties. Or per­haps they’ll be chat-bots with just enough per­son­al­i­ty to pass for a co-work­er.

Adobe is bring­ing togeth­er some of the most for­mi­da­ble (human) thinkers with­in the Asia Pacif­ic region to dis­cuss the increas­ing­ly blurred bound­ary between the mind and the machine and what it might mean for the future of work.

For some, the most fer­tile area of inno­va­tion is the inter­sec­tion between the human mind and the pos­si­bil­i­ties it can achieve when enabled by tech­nol­o­gy. Bio­med­ical engi­neer Dr Jor­dan Nguyen believes tech­nol­o­gy can be used to over­come phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions and free the mind to be more pro­duc­tive, cre­ative and expres­sive.

His work famous­ly includes cre­at­ing a spe­cialised musi­cal instru­ment that allows musi­cian Jes­si­ca Irwin, who was born with cere­bral pal­sy, to play live in con­cert. Nguyen, a TedX speak­er, is also a media com­men­ta­tor on the ways tech­nol­o­gy is help­ing us become “super­hu­man” while rein­vent­ing human­i­ty and the future of work.

Robots have already become part of the work­place and, as arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence expert Michael Prid­dis sees it, they’re here to stay.

Priddis’s back­ground as man­ag­ing direc­tor of Boston Con­sult­ing Group’s inno­va­tion arm, Dig­i­tal Ven­tures, and now CEO of Faethm, an advi­so­ry on arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, robot­ics and new tech­nol­o­gy, gives him a sweep­ing per­spec­tive on the rela­tion­ship between humans and machines now and into the future. Despite hand­some pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and effi­cien­cy ben­e­fits, Prid­dis is wary of the uncer­tain­ty machines will bring to soci­ety, par­tic­u­lar­ly with regard to employ­a­bil­i­ty.

Many rou­tine, repet­i­tive tasks – even knowl­edge-based tasks – are already being han­dled by pro­grams that use AI to cre­ate algo­rithms and machine learn­ing along with cloud pro­cess­ing for fast results. What does this mean for the prospects of human thinkers and our abil­i­ty to upskill while learn­ing on the job?

Can we trust that machines will be used in our best inter­ests? Prid­dis is urg­ing gov­ern­ments and reg­u­la­tors to con­sid­er the con­se­quences of increas­ing automa­tion by car­ry­ing human empa­thy into the deci­sions we make today.

Award-win­ning cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist Dr Fiona Kerr has spent con­sid­er­able time tap­ping into the way humans inter­act with each oth­er and tech­nol­o­gy. Empow­er­ing tech­nol­o­gy is already chang­ing the way teams col­lab­o­rate and man­age doc­u­ment work­flows. On an indi­vid­ual lev­el, more and more employ­ees are able to work remote­ly and autonomous­ly.

Kerr’s spe­cialised work focus­es on the sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship between human and machine to learn how humans are shap­ing tech­nol­o­gy – and vice ver­sa. Our rela­tion­ship with machines is in our con­trol, Kerr believes, and only act­ing on a soci­etal lev­el will ensure it stays healthy.

Adobe’s Future of Work Think Tank will be live streamed from Syd­ney on 6 Decem­ber 2017 at 2 PM AEDT. Watch the bio­med­ical engi­neer, the neu­ro­sci­en­tist and the robot­ics expert dis­cuss the role machines will play in tomorrow’s work­force.

The Future of Work Think Tank will host three expert pan­els on Machines, Peo­ple and Expe­ri­ences. Learn more here.

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