End to End Pervasive Automation Assisted Economies

Addressing a major issue and taking the next steps in economic development

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01 Apr, 2020

End to End Pervasive Automation Assisted Economies

With the current virus crisis straining economic ties, distribution, and end sales, it is a better time than ever to accelerate end to end pervasive automation assisted economies. Minimizing  disruptions and maximizing utilization of creative talent, that would be freed up from manual tasks.

At the moment there is a great deal of manual labor in the supply chain, that also has a significant amount of localization. These two things serve to make our supply chain of goods and services a great deal more brittle than they need to be, and limit the overall efficiency and growth rate.

And it’s not a matter of replacing everyone who does hands on work, that is not technologically or economically possible, but a matter of assisting those same people to do those tasks at a higher level and in a more remote way.

How?

We currently have the technology, given the right systems and software, to make about every operation in a supply chain hands off or remotely operated.

Mining and Resource Extraction

An example of automated mining can be found in the Syama in Australia, billed as “the world’s first fully automated mine”. And overall, automated mining equipment is a thing.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing automation is perhaps the one we are all most familiar with, and that is at the most mature stage. But even here there is significant opportunity to advance even farther, especially in the area of remote operation.

Imagine being able to source your manufacturing talent from anywhere in the world, to operate your manufacturing facility from anywhere else in the world that had ideal access to resources needed physically.

Warehousing

Automated warehouses have been with us for sometime now, and with more developments in the works such as automated forklifts.

And overall we should be able to remove people from the warehouse working floor and put them behind operations desks to supervise and directly control machinery where necessary.

Logistics

Automated shipping on the high seas is in the works, and the same is true for trucking.

Automation Assisted, with Emphasis on the Assisted

Many solutions are focusing on total, or perhaps near total, autonomy. And while that could be a great asset, it is the most complex and challenging way to go about the process.

An ideal middle way for filling in the rest of the remote and automation gaps would be to produce many discrete tools that utilize AI and robotics as smart assistants rather than full replacements.

Putting into place the ability to do any job remotely and collect data on those tasks can provide valuable data on further automation and abstraction, where the productivity of each worker goes up as they manage more and more tasks.

Not with the goal to replace workers, but to make each of them more productive and grow the entire production and profit pie.

Encapsulated and Abstracted Skills

Automation and AI assistance doesn’t need to mean dramatic re-training of the workforce if systems are well built. The specialized knowledge required to do jobs can be encoded in AI models where there is enough training data, and at the minimum put into remote operation to start collecting the data to build more abstracted systems.

At the start there can be mini-automations where the remotely controlled tools are enhanced by automated task steps, whether it be an actual tool on the production floor, or a vehicle out on the field or road.

There exists a significant market opportunity to monetize successful tool paths and motions as a commodity. You could have a marketplace for remote operation where users could share useful or often used motions, along with the associated assisting generalized spacial sensor data to perform discrete tasks.

In these ways you can avoid significant re-training by creating systems with task associations that works are already familiar with, and even simplify even more by having self-documenting and teaching systems.

There is one Japanese factory who took a step by step method automation approach for low volume production.

While this does not scale well for the industry overall, it does provide some ideas of what is possible in reducing knowledge complexity and making tasks more accessible.

Ideally this operation would be remotely operated and abstracted at a higher level with robots, and managed by the workers with software systems alerting system supervisors (re-tasked assembly line workers) about issues and how to address them.

Trying to fully automate all tasks is a tall order, but we can slowly increase the abstraction levels as more data and experience is gained.


The False Specter of Mass Unemployment

While it may seem that this is all leading to mass unemployment with people being less and less necessary, this doesn’t have to be the case at all, and is perhaps pretty unrealistic in any case. We will never run out of useful problems to solve, and people are far more valuable as problems solvers than mundane ditch diggers and rivet pushers.

The pervasive manual labor required to do tasks when we can do better, is a waste of human talent. There are many millions of people that live far below first world standards, and that right there is a massive opportunity for growth in the human condition.

With remote and augmented abilities, those areas open up as vast remote labor markets, sidestepping tariff and immigration roadblocks, producing goods that can be affordably accessed by developing regions. Being able to produce anywhere with talent from anywhere, where minimal infrastructure exists (and minimal can be a quite flexible concept with the right innovations).

We have just scratched the surface of the potential to develop even more massive operations that dramatically drop costs and make large projects commonplace. Quality and accessibility can be democratized by democratizing skills and taking away steep acquisition curves.

Education and Natural Ability

It is argued that not everyone has higher education and have different cognitive abilities.

Those things are true - not everyone has the same developmental opportunities. That is where system designers come into play: designing interfaces on top of smart systems that abstract away complexity as much as possible, while still taking advantage of human creative flexibility - our strength.

If someone can play a game, then they can operate a system. And gamification could become a quite valuable training tool for these remote systems based on real operational data.

Amidst Challenges, Bright Opportunities Exist

It may be an optimist’s cliche to say the future is bright, but it could be. With the right steps and systems we could smooth many things out considerably, even leading to near universal employment where many fields are accessible through abstracting systems. And people who are interested and choose to specialize with further training and education, can be the next generations system designers.

A major component is building the vision and illustrating to others what is truly possible.

Through media, illustrations, animation; backed up will solid technical feasibility; and actual system prototype and product building.

Images from free to use unsplash.com source


01 Apr, 2020

I am an aspiring robotist with a 10+ years software development background. I believe remote operated robotics and AI augmented solutions provide a path forward towards a more stable economy, more choices for workers, and a bigger workforce for employers, through task abstraction and ability multip... learn more

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