Pepper is the world’s first emo robot and represents a huge leap in artificial intelligence. It can read facial expressions, voice tones and body language and then respond. Pepper is designed to be cute. He stands about 120 centimetres tall and has big puppy dog eyes.
On sale for $2,000 from next year, Pepper is sure to be a big seller. As a household robot, Pepper will do the washing, the vacuuming and all the mundane chores with a smile.
But Japanese industry and government have serious plans for Pepper and robots like him. They want to build 30 million Peppers to create a workforce that can make Japan the world’s number one manufacturer again.
It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be replaced by robots, an estimated fifty percent of all jobs in corporations will also be replaced by machines by 2025.
There are two obvious sets of conclusions one may draw from this development. Whichever one is adopted makes no difference to the impact of this juggernaut. The important point is how do we adapt to this new landscape where the meaning of work becomes redefined.
From what used to be a privilege for only the wealthy, having servants to do our bidding will be as ubiquitous as smartphones in a subway.
So if this is the Brave New World, what do we do with our new-found freedom from mundanity? There will obviously be some major shifts in the way we perceive the world and our place in it.
If the Internet Age gave us unfettered communication and knowledge dissemination, will the Machine Age liberate us from mechanical ways of thinking and allow our creative juices to flow?
This may well be the case for early adopters but many will be at somewhat of a loss, unsure what to make of not having to work for a living. The implications for governments in supporting the population will necessitate a foundational restructure of social policy and corporate taxation.
We are fast approaching what is known as singularity, whereby machine intelligence surpasses that of humans. Perhaps that is why Aldous Huxley included the karuna bird in his famous novel, a creature that performed the function of a town crier or loud hailer reminding us of the need for compassion towards others in our society.
We now trust our lives to machines when we fly, drive and do our banking.
What seems like a quantum leap to us now is just the next step in the journey.