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HUBweek 2018

Lunch with Robots: Building a Mega-Cluster for AI and Robotics

October 10, 2018

This afternoon, HUBweek attendees had the chance to hear about the impact of automation, artificial intelligence and robotics on the workforce.

The panel discussion, moderated by Tom Ryden, executive director of Mass Robotics and featuring Patricia Gruver, Research, Innovation and Trade Attache for the Quebec Government Office in Boston, Justin Kang, VP of Economic Growth for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and Ryan Gents, director of membership for the Pittsburgh Technology Council, offered some interesting food for thought on how these technologies will shape the way we work.

A central theme emerging from the talk was that we cannot be passive in the face of AI, robotics, and other technical innovations. These trends have the potential to create new jobs in the form of service and support and a variety of other functions, but humans must be trained in new ways in order to be qualified for these positions.

As such, education will play an increasingly important role. Universities in all of the regions represented—Boston, Pittsburgh and the Montreal area—are adding new programs on robotics. In addition to data science and other tech disciplines, the panelists emphasized the importance of softer skills. Social skills, emotional abilities and creativity are capabilities robots cannot yet master, but are critical for success in the workplace.

The panelists also suggested that there will be greater opportunities for policy-makers, ethicists and like functions to help shape the future, and steer us away from some of the negative consequences that could occur if robots are not regulated.

The issue of coding was raised, and the fact that codes and algorithms are often biased because they are created by humans—who are inherently biased. As automation becomes more prevalent in the workforce, the industry should think about ways to code more fairly and also how to harness the technology to change tech’s diversity problem.

The panelists urged attendees to think about these issues now, so that the workforce is better prepared once robots become more prominent.


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Interested in learning more about the impact of robotics in the workplace? Check out another HUBweek “Lunch with Robots” session tomorrow at noon, with Jim Tracy, president, Woodrow Wilson Academy, Kathleen Kennedy, director of special projects at MIT and Colin Angle, founder and CEO of iRobot. Click here to learn more.

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