Atari founder Nolan Bushnell once said: “I just want the future to happen faster. I can’t imagine the future without robots.” Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for because of Moore’s law the future is today. But do you know what will happen tomorrow?
By Triin Kask
Understanding is the key
Robots are everywhere. According to Wikipedia, a robot is a mechanical or virtual artificial agent, usually an electromechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry, and thus a type of an embedded system. Sounds complicated? Look around, look closely and you start to understand that there are robots already everywhere. They are the ones landing on Mars, diving into the deepest oceans, searching missing persons, driving your car, waking you up every morning and making your coffee. Very soon when you go to a courthouse there won’t be a human judge making the final decision about your case – it will be a robot.
In 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore noticed that the overall computing power would double in every two years or so. We now call it Moore’s law – it basically means that this year the newest TVs and cars and airplanes are better than the last year’s. As the cost decreases, the market grows.
The speed of technological expansion is getting faster and faster and in contrast to 1965 we’re not talking about years but months and weeks instead. This means that robots are becoming cheaper, faster, smarter and soon they will be ready to do everything.
From telegraph to smartphone
In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell said his famous words into the machine he was just testing: “Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you.” By doing this he initiated something that we today see everywhere around us – the era of telecommunication.
It took us nearly a hundred years to be able to take a portable phone and make calls while walking around a house or an office. Only four years later Motorola released the very first commercially available mobile phone. Not much – except calling – was really available at that time. In the beginning of 2000s Canadian-based BlackBerry (then Research in Motion) came up with something ultimate, a business phone. As we all know Steve Jobs announced iPhone in 2007, which was shortly followed by Google’s Android. In 2008 Apple launched the App Store for mobile apps and everything, I mean everything changed.
Smartphones are constantly getting smarter and developing them gets cheaper – still in accordance to what Moore predicted years ago. Advanced smartphones are creating huge possibilities for developers to build more and more sophisticated apps.
All in all, we’ve reached the point where there are many buzz words moving around and people are asking what’s going to happen next? What will the equivalent to telecommunication be in 2020? But in 2050?
Keanu Reeves’ character in the 1999 movie “The Matrix” declared – “I know kung fu.”. And he said it not because he had practised kung fu for years but because the utter knowledge of martial arts was “uploaded” to his brain in seconds. Is this what’s going to happen to mobile apps? That today we download apps from the App Store directly into our smartphones, but in the future, we’ll be downloading apps directly into our brains? We don’t really know but as long as we witness it, it could be the case.
The robot (keep in mind, today is yesterday’s future)
It is the core question of every business, how to be more efficient, how to increase productivity. These questions have brought many companies to the realisation that the key here is to automate at least some of their inner processes.
Automation simply means putting robots to take care of all these tedious and repetitive tasks that previously had taken many hours from humans. You might think that this is directly related to economic reasoning, and you’re right. In fact, robots don’t want to get paid, they don’t need to sleep and they don’t eat. Thus, expenses go down and productivity goes up and that in turn, increases company’s profitability.
But this is not the most important reason why automation is the key for businesses to succeed. The main and ultimately the only reason is to enable humans to realise their full potential, which allows them to create real solutions to real problems.
We’re living in the era of Artificial Intelligence. AI empowers robots with the ability to learn and to become better, faster, stronger reaching levels we can not even imagine. This is the reality that is going to change absolutely everything in our life as we know it today.
Mobile app development, like any other industry, will not be left untouched. Already today we can automate most of the testing process as well as the majority of support, maintenance and some of the development tasks. During the coming years, we will see a lot more automation solutions being introduced in software development than ever before.
Robots are evolving very rapidly and with the help of artificial intelligence, the robot of tomorrow will not just be a tool like it is today. It will be an intelligent self-learning machine that in most extreme cases could replace us, humans. You may think it’s impossible, a robot will always be a machine that needs programming input from a human being. But if we add the self-learning component to it, the picture changes completely.
Some even predict that robots will be taking over the world and enslave human beings. But there are some remarkable thought leaders who strongly oppose to this apocalyptical prediction. In 2015 a number of experts (Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk among them) signed an open letter regarding artificial intelligence stating that in order to achieve great potential out of AI we should also study the possibilities to avoid “creating something which cannot be controlled”.
AI will displace a huge number of jobs creating an enormous economic impact. According to the study conducted by Citi as well as The Future of Jobs by World Economic Forum by 2035, 77% of jobs will be replaced by robots in China, US Banking industry could lose 40% of jobs to robots. There is already an ongoing scientific discussion (“Robots Are Us”) about robots being able to write and evaluate software.
One of the most intriguing questions is whether automation by robots will replace human labour or will it help humans work on more sophisticated and important tasks? Coming to mobile app developers, how should they increase their skill-set today to be ready for tomorrow?
It would be really interesting to hear your thoughts what would be the skills of mobile app developers that could not be replaced by smart robots. Feel free to add your comments.
Triin Kask is a CEO of Greenhouse CI.