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Bridge Bytes: Human’s need not apply. What happened to job automation?

over 2 years ago by Harry Robinson

Lenin Estrada Oi1 Toozs K Bw Unsplash

It's been over a decade since Wall-e showed us life with job automation and over 35 years since Blade Runner introduced the world to ‘Replicants’ taking over human labour. So what happened?

We already have Elon Musk on his crusade to bring us closer to flying cars and space travel, but who’s pushing for our automated future? Just how far away are we from technology replacing humanity in our day to day jobs? Let’s look at the latest and not-so greatest attempts of the past year. 

Man’s best friend

State Police in Massachusetts have caused quite the stir this week as videos posted by Boston Dynamics show their latest robot for sale assisting in live police incidents. ‘Spot’ the quadrupedal robot dog is sold as the perfect tool for remote inspection of dangerous environments, but it's recent moonlighting with state police involved opening doors and entering buildings in ongoing criminal investigations.

Boston Dynamics might have been eager to share an update on their latest product, but the backlash they face will come as no surprise to anyone conscious of the potential dangers a Black Mirror-esque robot dog could bring and the future implications of the US police force doing what they do best, introducing firearms. The American Civil Liberties Union has called for an immediate investigation into the use of technology in the Massachusetts state police, with transparency of intentions at the forefront of their demands. Even with their quick response, stating that ‘Spot’ was only a mobile remote observation drone’ the PR damage is already done as probes into public safety begin.

VAR–cical decisions

You don’t have to be a football fan to have heard about the latest controversies surrounding VAR. ‘Video Assistant Referee’ was introduced this season to reduce incorrect decisions made by standard referees. Even with a human behind the monitor, this technology was intended to relieve the work load of referees and their assistants. But much like ‘Spot’ the robot dog, VAR has fallen flat on its face. It turns out removing the context from each play, enforcing rules to the smallest degree and introducing stoppages that kill the flow of the game.

Only time will tell if VAR technology can actually automate the role of the referee, for now I think we would all be a lot happier if it’s left on the bench.

Rebel without a clause

If you have never heard of James Dean, don’t feel bad. Having starred in a grand total of 7 films, over  6o years ago, the actor most famous for his role in 1955’s ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ is not quite the household name of Tom Cruise or Robert Downey Jr. Despite tragically dieing in a car crash in that same year, Dean has recently been cast in Magic City Films new feature ‘Finding Jack’.

Thanks to movie magic, and significant investment from 2 VFX studios, James Dean will be fully re-created using CGI technology. When asked about the need to case a piece of technology in a role most would expect a human actor, director Anton Ernst said:

“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean.”

Ignoring the obvious ethical debate surrounding the CGI resurrection of a nonconsenting actor, the extreme levels of backlash has focused on the blind eye being turned to the 1,000s of actors putting themselves forward for roles.

The score as it stands, Humans 3 – Technology 0. Whilst plenty of progress is happening towards job automation, the means in which it has been implemented have angered and panicked many. From ethically ambiguous robot dogs to CGI ghosts, we’re still left waiting for life without work.

For now, search for your new role at The Bridge here