It’s throwforward Thursday again. Dubai Expo Edition. My name is Graeme Codrington, and last week I spent a few days at the Dubai Expo looking at the future. One of the features of the Expo was robotics. If we think about the future, obviously robotic automation immediately Springs to mind and travelling all around the Expo were a number of different robots.
The big ones, the big white ones were security robots, and if you tried to stand in their way or try and talk to them, they would politely, in a nice robotic voice, tell you to please move aside that they were part of a security surveillance team, which wasn’t at all creepy. There were small ones as well, which I think were also part of the security system, but were designed with some interactive elements for kids. And it was fun to watch some of the kids interacting with some children’s games built into the robotics.
There were also various pavilions that highlighted a number of different applications for robotics, including, for example, the Emirates Airlines version of the future, with at least one option of those being self driving or self flying drones that carry people from place to place. One I enjoyed the most was actually a coffee machine, a barista that was completely robotic.
Put in your order and you have a look at the various options. Hit the button and off the coffee machine goes. And in my case, I ordered an iced coffee that’s nice and hot. And so it was multitasking with grinding the coffee beans and getting the ice sorted and mixed everything beautifully together and delivered it for me. And I thought, there are going to be a lot of jobs that the mechanics of the job can be replaced by robots.
But it didn’t have the same vibe as a nice coffee house and a barista that’s got a little bit of personality that might chat to you as we go along. And I think that’s one of the big themes that came out of Expo 2020. It wasn’t showcasing how brilliant it will be that machines can take over from humans. In fact, it was looking for the opportunities for humans and machines to work together, to interact for each other. Yes, let the machines do what the machines are best at doing, which is the mechanical, the dumb work that requires little thinking.
Let the humans do what the humans are good at doing, which is the connection, the conversation, the relationship, the empathy, the care, maybe even the fun and the entertainment as well. But that brings me to my final exhibit in talking about robotics, and that was one of the times when I really felt touched, not just in my head with a vision of the future, but in my heart with a sense of awe and wonder.
It was one of the little mini exhibits where you really well, in fact, there was spontaneous applause from the audience, and that was in the Kazakhstan Pavilion. And right at the end there was a five minute dance between a person, a human and a machine. This big robotic arm coming down out of the roof and this human and this robotic arm together with a sort of 180 degree panoramic screen interacted with graphics and I suppose demonstrating the power of artificial intelligence interacting with human beings.
It was an art piece, not a science piece. It wasn’t trying to show what humans and machines will actually look like interacting with each other but more in the form of artistry and in the specific form of dance showing that this is the future we should be trying to build. Not a future where machines take over from humans and not a future where humans fight against the machines, but a future where we work together and we bring things together.
I’m going to have a look and see if a professional crew has put that five minutes together properly and uploaded it. If not, I’ll upload my handheld iPhone camera version of it onto my YouTube channel and I highly recommend that you go and have a look at it.
So the Dubai Expo once again reaffirmed our view here in the tomorrow. Today research lab confirmed our view that robots and humans need to find ways to work together. That the future should not be about robots replacing machines but rather robots augmenting humanity and humans bringing the human elements to the world of robotic automation and that is how we will build our best future together.
As always, the throwforward Thursday takes a leap into the future and sees what we can find there and what we need to learn about the future for our world today. Make sure that you like and subscribe and join us every Thursday for a peek into the future.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.