Mumbai: Enough has been said about advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics seeing humans being replaced in all kinds of jobs. While the debate is still ongoing, India is slowly working towards adopting new technologies and making these an integral part of business strategies. In research and development (R&D), globally, Siemens is investing more, and sharpening its focus on core technologies such as cybersecurity, autonomous robotics, distributed energy systems, and the future of automation. In an interview, Sunil Mathur, India head of Siemens, opens up about the future of the Indian economy and how human-machine collaboration is already a reality.
It is said human and machine collaboration will be frictionless by 2030. How do you view this?
From the first industrial revolution to Industry 4.0, technology has advanced at a mind-boggling pace. Mass-produced goods have now made way for mass-customization, based on individual demands. We are now talking about nearly 30 billion connected devices, and many of them are capable of communicating with each other. This is already a reality.
Machines of the future would no longer require costly, time-consuming programming. Robots will be capable of self-learning, eliminating the need for human input for performing complex tasks. This ability of machines to learn using knowledge graphs and simulation will enable them to interact with the real world and adapt to changes. This is a combination of AI, digitalization and autonomous manufacturing.
The combination of human innovation and robots heading towards progressive autonomy has the potential to dramatically transform not only production and logistics processes, but also user behaviour and business models.
What will happen to job creation if humans are replaced by bots, especially in India?
The fear of AI and autonomous machines as a threat to humanity is misguided. The more likely scenario is humans and robots working in harmony. AI expands the potential of humans. Humans will learn value-added tasks, while self-learning robots pick up new skills on their own. No need to fear horror stories of mass unemployment: to date, every industrial revolution ended up creating more jobs and generally making people’s lives better. This will be no different for the fourth industrial revolution, digitalization.
Digitalization will transform work with people having higher qualification and competence profiles but won’t replace it: people will always be indispensable. Digitalization will create more jobs than it takes away.
What are megatrends that will drive the future of industry?
Everywhere you look, digitalization is seeping in. Considering that the global volume of data is expected to soar to 163 zettabytes by 2025, new needs are bound to arise, but so will new challenges for industries. The entire value chain of a product, along with an organization’s assets and operations, is being digitalized. Products are turning more intelligent and autonomous. The pace of change of technology in the digital age will call for increasing levels of collaboration, a strong ecosystem of partners to co-create solutions, industry-driven platforms and new fully-flexible business models. By making targeted use of technologies such as AI and edge computing, it will be possible to significantly enhance both flexibility and productivity in the future. The basis for this is the availability of data, which is plentifully available thanks to digitalization. New ways of evaluating and using these are set to open up.
Where is India on the value chain of this new industrial revolution?
As the world moves towards industry 4.0, India will have to adopt new technologies. Industry aims to boost the contribution of the manufacturing sector from 15% to 25% of gross domestic product in the near future. In order to support this growth, India will need an ecosystem comprising suppliers with a high level of efficiency, flexibility, and quality focus. Our manufacturers have the unique opportunity to blend the availability of advanced manufacturing technologies to create an extraordinary competitive advantage. The need of the hour for manufacturers is to take the lead in adopting new technologies and make it an integral part of their business strategies. Those that are successful in understanding the power of digitalization and harnessing it across their businesses will lead this new wave of growth.