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How Accurate Were Dell’s Predictions on Human-Machine Partnerships?

Back in 2017, an education and research organization called Institute For The Future (IFTF) partnered with Dell Technologies to write a report on emerging technologies that had the potential to change our lives. The report focused on what these human-machine partnerships may look like by 2030.(Figure 1)


Figure 1: Dell’s VR System




As we are now more than halfway through this timeline, there are a few developments worth noting in light of Dell’s predictions. 


The report stated that the information was sourced from interviews and focus groups with experts. The report overall has a positive view of technological developments, but there could be bias from stakeholders as they want to promote their products and fields, and it would serve them a direct benefit if the public viewed technology in a positive light rather than a negative one. There are costs and downsides to all technological developments. 


Access To Healthcare


The report introduces a system called honor, which aims to make it easier to connect the aging population to healthcare within the home. The report cites the increasing number of the aging population relative to the working-age population as an important reason for these developments to exist. 


A related recent example is home delivery services such as Shipt and Doordash. Studies show that the existence of these services greatly improved access to food and home essentials for people with disabilities. Some would label these services as “luxuries,” while on the other hand there is a vulnerable population that relies on them, which are both valid viewpoints to consider in the recent debates around company-contractor struggles for fair pricing and wages


This report does not address whether technologies such as honor are intended as luxury or essential services. If they end up dominating the field of elder care, people who can not afford these technologies will either have to work increasingly harder to afford to take care of their elders, or find alternatives. 


There will be companies manufacturing, selling, and maintaining these products. There will be individuals profiting off of technological developments, therefore, they have to be priced fairly. 


Technology, Security, and Business


Security breaches can have great impacts on companies and their clients, especially if the company is providing an essential service, serving a vulnerable population, or handling sensitive personal information. 


The report states that technology will play less of a role in the security of a system. The report states, “The threat of falling victim to security breaches is no longer a technology problem, but a business problem.”


A recent example is the data breach recently experienced by Fred Hutch Cancer Center. As per a notification letter received by one (out of one million affected) Fred Hutch patients, Fred Hutch is now covering restoration services through an Experian IdentityWorks membership. This is an example of a “business problem” that the report was talking about. Fred Hutch has made this decision to invest money into offering their patients these services in an effort to make them feel safer. Had they not made this decision, Fred Hutch may have been impacted negatively as patients may choose to switch providers and hospitals. 


Robotics and AI in the Workplace 


Dell’s report cites a different study to state that “more than a third of U.K. jobs could be at “high risk” of automation by the early 2030s and robots could take over 38% of current U.S. jobs in the next 15 years.” One example that the report cited is Google’s endeavors to create robots that can do basic tasks but also learn and grow, hoping to save time and resources in the workplace. 


A recent update on Google’s robots showed that one of the robots performed decently when asked to make a burger, except it placed the entire bottle of ketchup on it. Other times robots made mistakes were more high-stakes, such as when an AI-powered robot started reproducing racist and sexist stereotypes. Regardless of the impact of faults in technology, humans are still by their side to fix them. As robots are introduced into workplaces, it’s still important for humans to bring their adaptation and critical thinking and emotional intelligence into all steps of this process. 


While there are many advantages to automation in the workplace, a different article on the same topic insists that technological interventions can have a direct impact on workers’ lives. While Dell’s report acknowledges that “automation displaces and disrupts human labor,” different perspectives on this displacement and disruption are important to recognize.  


As lower level jobs are being replaced by robots, how is this going to affect the wealth gap? Is the money saved going to be kept as profit? Or are the companies giving raises to the already relatively wealthy people working to build and maintain the robots?

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