Posted 9 May 2018
Operations in water involves a lot of manpower – it’s difficult, it’s laborious and it’s expensive. But what if there’s a better way to help with those processes? What if a robot could be used to help with the work?
Looking for the seeds of the future in the present, futurist, author, entrepreneur and innovator Mark Pesce said – in his opening keynote presentation at day two of Ozwater’18 – automation needs to be embraced to make smart changes within the water industry.
“The robotics revolution has been a slow burn – we call it a 20-year overnight success story. But the sensing technology on robots has been progressively getting better and cheaper so that robots can be more aware of the world,” he said.
“The control systems have grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years and they’re now designable and manufacturable at scale. The technology is now getting so well understood. Imagine what this can do for water pipes or sewerage.”
According to Pesce, artificial intelligence (AI) has hit an inflection point and businesses now need to find the good balance between human and machine intelligence.
“The key to understanding AI is that we have thought computers to learn from their mistakes. Machines are doing what they do best and humans are doing what they do best but some parts are greater than either,” he said.
“When you put the two together, you can do the job better, faster, safer and cheaper because of both working together. We have been hearing about how machines are going to put us out of jobs but we have been hearing far too little about how this next generation of machines is being used to amplify our capacities and focusing on the most interesting bits.
“It’s not an either/or – it’s a multiplicity world where we need to make the human-machine combination work for us,” he added.
But in order to understand automation, we need to understand its limitations.
With the massive electronic flow of information and data coming in from these machines and with businesses getting more involved in analytics, private data now becomes public data.
“It would be as if you’ve got cameras in your homes; and what happens then if that data gets lost?” he questioned.
“Connected worlds are smart worlds but this data can also be used against you. Businesses have a duty of care, an ethical responsibility and transparency, as to how to use that data and use it for others.
“Transparency is safety and assurity and is important when it comes to bringing together humans and machines. If not, we’ll face ethical dilemmas going into future as machines will keep doing what we programmed them to do, which is learn from their mistakes and they don’t know right from wrong – machines are super good in being inflexible,” Pesce said.
Pesce also stressed the importance of focusing on the right things as we build these machine systems and data comes in.
“The future is not clear sailing, it’s not some harmonious marriage of human and machine possibilities. Being realistic is the best place to start with these relationships as it means the building on of safeguards that will keep in this relationship on firm ground as we both work out the best and worst qualities of one another,” he said.
“We will need to listen to and adapt and tune to each other’s needs just as we do in real relationships. The future belongs to those that listen – to the human voices, to the data, to the algorithms and to the machines.”
Ozwater’18 is currently ongoing in Brisbane, at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, from now until 10 May.