WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

THE ROBOTS ARE HERE (SEASON 3)

Nowadays, when you need to do your banking, it’s possible to go for years without ever having to visit a physical branch of your bank. You can update your information and carry out transfers online, and you can deposit and withdraw money from an ATM. The more banking is conducted online with the help of algorithms, the less the industry needs human workers.

Now, remember the meaning of the acronym ATM: Automated Teller Machine. The tasks that are performed by an ATM used to be the exclusive job of human tellers. Those tellers still exist, of course, but in lower numbers today than in yesteryears, thanks to ATMs.

In other words, automation has already been present in the commercial banking industry for quite some time, and it’s going to continue gaining steam in the years ahead.

To understand why it’s helpful to recall the reasons that banks exist in the first place.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but one of their essential jobs is to handle money. Now, modern societies are increasingly becoming “cashless” as more and more financial transactions are conducted electronically through credit cards and the like. As the modern economy moves away from physical money (cash), it also moves away from needing physical places to deal with that money (bank branches). Many companies in the banking industry are taking note of this fact and ditching physical banks altogether. The result: entirely virtual banks, such as Opay, Carbon, Quickteller, which are largely run by automated computing systems powered by sophisticated algorithms.

Meanwhile, large investment banks in Nigeria like Guaranty Trust Bank and First Bank are also becoming automated. They are putting their services online and replacing their human financial analysts with algorithms. Elsewhere, JPMorgan Chase has become so invested in this objective that as of 2015, it had employed more software engineers and programmers than either Facebook or Twitter – 9,000 out of its 33,000 total employees! The banks’ algorithms are extremely powerful. In just seconds, they can make financial calculations and projections that used to take human analysts hundreds of hours. Within the next decade, they could replace between one-third and one-half of all workers in the financial sector.

Automated technologies will also take over the role of monitoring our health, diagnosing and treating diseases. Have you ever felt sick and ‘Googled’ your symptoms? Then, like millions of people, you’ve already experienced one of how automation will transform the future of healthcare.

Before online search engines and virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri, you probably would have seen your doctor about your symptoms. Now you can find information about their causes and remedies by simply typing a few words into your search bar or saying, “Hey, Alexa, how do I perform CPR?”

Alexa will already give you precise instructions on how to do things like that, and in the coming years, virtual assistants will become even more sophisticated – capable of answering just about any question you’d ask your family doctor.

Meanwhile, we’ll be able to continuously monitor, analyze and improve our health with a variety of sensors and apps built into our smartwatches, cellphones, rings, and clothing, along with microchips implanted in our skin. All of these technologies have already been developed to one degree or another. You can monitor your heart rate with a Fitbit, use a cellphone app to diagnose whether a suspicious skin spot is cancerous or not, and even wear a posture-improving device that will give you a little electric shock every time you slouch.

These are just a taste of things to come. Soon, as these technologies evolve and proliferate, we’ll be able to track automatically nearly every aspect of our health and self-diagnose nearly every common ailment. And for diagnosing more serious diseases, many hospitals are already using supercomputers like IBM’s Watson.

As for medical treatments, once again, the robots are coming – or rather, they’re already here. The Israeli company Mazor Robotics has developed an automated robotic surgeon that’s conducted 25,000 spinal surgeries in the United States.

Meanwhile, an American company called Microbot Medical is developing nano-bots. These robots are so tiny that they can swim through the narrow tunnels of your urethra, blood vessels, and even the vascular tubes in your brain, cleaning them up and repairing damage as they go. For example, they could remove the plaque from your coronary arteries, which would reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

As we’ll see next week, many future jobs will involve providing support to automated systems.

Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments box provided below.

Have a fruitful day!

Olusola Bodunrin
Olusola Bodunrin is a social commentator with a passion for gathering facts on social issues. He is writer, businessman, blogger, and wardrobe consultant. He is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He anchors – ‘What You Should Know’ on SHEFFA. ‘What You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on general falsehood and myths.