India Inc and Automation – A disruption or an opportunity?

Posted on by Rohan Mahajan
 
  

In the recent times, we’ve been exposed to the words like ‘Machine Learning’, ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and ‘Automation‘. Cultural and social representations, such as WestWorld or The Matrix have in fact presented a different perspective to our somber minds. And while we do have some atypical predictions and cultural representations of these things in the popular cult movie The Terminator – we are looking at an age of massive industrial change.

There have been talks of machines stealing human jobs, the requirement of a universal basic income and the need to scrutinize the perils of smarter machines. Moreover, a conjectural understanding of automation completely divorced from common sense has been making the rounds in the media and affecting the political and societal brigade of the country.

And while several media houses love to indulge in fear-mongering and chatter about the looming ‘AI apocalypse’, the ground report isn’t all that menacing. There is an imminent need to disperse the ridiculous theories around machines and their possible rise, and understand how the country could actually pivot this technological development to the betterment of its resources and its people.

So the question rises, ‘What is Automation’s implication for the India growth story and jobs?’

In India, there are a lot of people scrounging for the little number of jobs that they can get – mostly in the burgeoning manufacturing and the evergreen tertiary sectors. And automation is not making their lives easier, because in India, the poignant effect of automation is similar to that of the introduction of computers in the native markets. No one really know what the technology really is, but they feel threatened and trivial – the follow-through of facing the unknown.

Developments in technology and code have enabled us to program machines so that we can utilize their strength and accuracy to achieve better and quicker results. This advancement in technological knowhow has attracted the interest of major industries in various countries. But not in India. These changes have invited a reprisal from the people employed by the manufacturing and tertiary industries in the country.

Now this presents a major problem for the India Growth story – because our government is flummoxed between carpet-bombed development initiatives and caressing the worries and projections of the masses. There are three major problems to address – appeasing the people, training the youth, and creating a trail for the people to follow and accept different development measures.

For the Centre to tackle this, the youth ought to be trained in a practical manner, where they learn how to leverage the machines and work with them.

Schools could do well by focusing on critical thinking and communication abilities with an adjunct of exploration and essential STEM orientation. A child with better leadership abilities would certainly be able to handle decision-making more humanely than a number-fueled machine.

For the industries, automation spells faster manufacturing, precise developments and hassle-free production. Since, machines would be used instead of most manual labor, and AI would help in the technological aspects, India Inc could use the machines for labor savings, reducing electricity and material costs, improve the quality, and quickly cater to the dynamic developments of the market.

As for the public opinion, the human race’s success will not necessarily be driven by our quantitative skills or our work effort, but by how well we collaborate with robots.

So while we can continue talking about the future of the planet, we might as well discuss some really radical notions without feeling a threat towards our livelihood and our very existence. So let yourselves ponder about super-powered Type 3 civilizations, a humanoid existence, consciousness loaded into clouds accessible from our immortal android bodies or simply a graveyard with a huge obelisk signifying the human greed. It is all still possible. The future with automation is not Terminator-esque, but more like Wall-E, with some obvious caveats.

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About the Author

Rohan Mahajan is a writer, which considering where you’re reading this makes perfect sense. A strategist by profession, Rohan is a movie buff, a traveler and a voracious reader who also writes poetry. Rohan was previously associated with a startup where he wrote about User interfaces, Technology and Analytics. A quick thinker, Rohan shatters opinions and constantly views things in a different perspective.