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A seminar at Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh Campus argues that the revolution in robotics and autonomous systems offers massive potential, maximising these benefits will require a new cultural mindset.

We need a more agile, future-ready workforce, ready to embrace a data driven world.

Dr David Flynn

Organiser Dr David Flynn believes that, despite negative reporting on the potential negative effects on jobs and incomes, if robotics and AI do actually become a threat to society, then that would be a threat of society's own choosing,

The market impact from robotics and autonomous systems  is estimated to be £1.6-£6.4 trillion per annum by 2025, but a recent report from the Sutton Trust underlined a widespread fear that this could lead to a two-tier society, with ‘An elite high skilled group dominating the higher echelon of society and a lower-skilled, low-income group with limited prospects of upward mobility and an irremediably broken social ladder'.

This, says Dr David Flynn, is a worst-case scenario which could be avoided if government, business and Academia face up to their responsibility to prepare our current and future workforce for the imminent and dramatic changes to come. 

“Technical innovation has always had an impact on the status quo, and that stirs up fears of what that change might bring. Currently the fear is that the owners of the means of production will become rich, while the rest of the world will see their jobs and livelihoods taken over by robots.

“I strongly believe that, contrary to this apocalyptic scenario, the future is all about people: after all the value of such technologies is in the knowledge we embed within them and how we interact with them, not the machines themselves. But for that to work we need a more agile, future-ready workforce, ready to embrace a data driven world in partnership with robotics and autonomous systems.

“Heriot-Watt University is ready to play its part in revolutionising industry and education. We are reaching out to government and industry to engage in a People First ethos where our Centre of Embedded Innovation concept is reaching out to all of our communities.”