Are you an AI Big-time Believer or a Cautious Adopter?

Each time a revolutionary technology appears, the media and the unions publish about lost jobs and the fear of the unknowns. During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, steam engines were predicted to decimate the working classes while the microchip was foreseen to make degrees in mathematics obsolete. When “horse-less carriages” appeared in the early 20th century, tradespeople protested against loss of employment.

Mention artificial intelligence (AI) in a conversation and you will be met with either the eager eyes of the big-time believers or fearful glance of a cautious adopter. Why does AI cause such resistance?

Why should AI be the solution to everything or the reason we will be out of a job soon? The solution is an alliance: one in which AI serves to consolidate human intelligence. It’s a way forward. The main role in this development will be for the one who can talk both robot and human languages.

AI can help to promote a new role in various economic sectors that of the “Robot Teacher”. This person will take the experience and knowledge of an experienced person and help to develop and train AI.

Recruitment is Becoming Tough

Even with a fresh smell of bread, it is difficult to recruit operatives for some food process – even more problematic to recruit a person who can match the experience of a “Master Baker” with 30 years’ experience. The latter can look at a loaf of bread, smell it and tell you if it is to a high-standard of quality expected by the modern consumer. The new operative may only be a recent graduate. While the person may have the skill set to eventually follow in the footsteps of the master, there is an experience and knowledge gap between them. AI can bridge the gap between the two of them.

A Team Effort from Humans & Machines

To ensure that experience and knowledge stays in-house when an employee retires or moves jobs, it is possible to feed the necessary data to an algorithm and make it accessible to everyone in the company. Alas, this may give rise to more questions to the statement that the position becomes redundant.

Question 1: But doesn’t that make a position redundant?

No. Not if you hire a different profile. Someone who knows how to translate an existing process to an AI model and retrain it. For the master baker in the food processor, it can be new varieties of bread, pastries, biscuits and sweets. The new hire is a teacher of the AI with the in-house knowledge remaining. The person helps to build better machines to do the task and constantly trains it to become better and better.

Question 2: But doesn’t that make his successor redundant?

Product Labelling is a laborious task and is often outsourced to countries where labour costs are lower. A smart move would to be to enquire with a newly-appointed robotics expert or an experienced operative about how to best qualify the imagery of the finished product on the line. No one knows the process or the product better than they do so entrust your workforce to empower AI.

Question 3: But do you really still need humans when you’re working with AI?

It is a false misconception that humans are no longer needed for AI. They are essential for good management and functioning of AI. Every industrial AI case begins with analysing a product process or situation by capturing image data with a camera. Human interpretation is needed to feed the data into the algorithm. The assigned person understands the imagery to determine the quality of the data and to interpret the situation and to decide on actions the AI should take.

Question 3: Won’t people loathe this labelling though?

Experience tells me that they don’t dislike it. Employees love sharing their knowledge and training AI to boost their involvement in the process. In fact, we often see employee enthusiasm rise as a project develops. In most cases, the new-age teachers are the ones to see opportunities where AI builders didn’t. With all their product knowledge and understanding of the situation, they see where AI can help.

In a food manufacturing company where we were asked to install a single camera, we finished the project by placing six, monitoring the complete production chain from raw materials to finished products, thanks to the operators’ eye for opportunity.

Testimony from Florensis

Florensis is just one of Robovisions’ many satisfied clients where AI-enabled computer-vision has been applied to automated and bring efficiencies to plant cultivation. Cagla Yilmaz is an operative at Florensis:

“During my first season, I mostly verified the current robot’s work. During my second season, I was a robot operator. I had learnt so much about the robots that I could help other operators and remove the inefficiencies. I’m really happy with my role. No two days are the same, and I can always be useful somewhere.”

Robots aren’t here to replace humans

They are designed to improve menial and repetitive work. It is important to initiate the discussion between human and machines and to look at how the new “Robot Teachers” can play a vital role in making this happen. These teachers will become people who can think like an AI and like a person with an understanding of the shortcomings as well as the strengths of both.

Robot teachers are a job of the future. The people who will give us, humans, the tools in hand to do things we were never able to do before. And we don’t see those robot teachers as a happy few. They will be a whole new legion of professionals carving out new paths.


Opinions and views expressed in this guest post are the solely of the author and do not express the views and opinions of Robovision, its employees or any one associated with Robovision.

Editor’s Note

Originally published in May 2021; edited and updated in June 2022.