TL;DR – Technology can be disruptive. Best be prepared for it.
There are concerns that jobs in Singapore are going to foreigners. Some of us think that we can keep our jobs by keeping foreigners out of our country. Unfortunately that is not going to work. Because if we lose our jobs, chances are, it’s not because some foreigners took our jobs, but because we weren’t able to keep up with changes in the economy and advances of technology.
You think that’s farfetched? You think your job is safe from advances in technology? You think those advances are things that will only happen in the future, long after you have retired? If that’s what you think, you are wrong. Tomorrow is here. The future is now. Just look at what Alibaba has achieved with artificial intelligence (AI).
Robots Serving Food
Alibaba has opened a number of supermarkets called Hema supermarkets. Their supermarkets blends online and offline shopping experiences. They have in-store restaurants so shoppers can select live seafood and eat on the spot. Online shoppers receive free delivery within 30 minutes. The combination of a user-friend app and barcodes on all items provides merchandise information, including sourcing, brand heritage, price points and nutritional value.
In China, a country that’s becoming a wallet-free society, you can purchase with Alipay, the Alibaba-affiliated digital payment system that has over 520 million users.
Here’s a look at Alibaba’s Hema supermarket:
And recently, Aliababa has started using robots at Hema Supermarket stores in Shanghai to serve customers seafood cooked in-store. Fresh seafood restaurant is located in Alibaba’s Hema Supermarket, and a combination of conveyor belts, a robotic arm, and mobile carts on waist-high counters handle almost all of the waitstaff ‘legwork.’ They’re guided by a software system that uses customer-submitted QR codes to figure out seating, ordering, and payment, via the Hema app.
Here’s a look at how the robots work:
This technology will replace a good number of service staff. That means that the humans who will continue to be employed will have to provide service of a higher value, such as interacting with customers, assisting them, and cooking.
AI Retail Assistants
Alibaba and lifestyle brand Guess recently showed off a new artificial intelligence driven concept for future fashion stores called Fashion AI. It is built around Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao. Users check in to the store with their mobile Taobao QR code and all the items displayed in-store come with corresponding Taobao product listings, so that users can add the items they would like to purchase directly to their Taobao cart.
Within the store, each item, whether it’s a dress or a pair of heels, comes with an RFID tag. When a customer picks up a product, the smart mirror closest to the user registers the tag and displays an image of the item as well as the product details on the screen. The smart mirror can also provide mix and match suggestions for items in the store and styling suggestions based on previous purchases made by the user.
Customers in the FashionAI store can also select the clothes they would like to try out, which will be prepared for them in the fitting room. The fitting rooms are also equipped with smart mirrors which allow users to choose a different size or even new items to try without leaving the fitting room. Once they have decided which items to purchase, the checkout and payment process can be completed on their smartphones through the Taobao app.
Such technology reduces the need for retail assistants.
Alibaba’s digital marketing arm Alimama unveiled an AI copywriter that can produce up to 20,000 lines of copy a second and has passed the Turing test.
The Turing test measures a machine’s ability to exhibit behaviour that is indistinguishable from a human through natural language conversations, and few machines have managed to successfully pass the test. This AI-copywriter uses deep learning and natural language processing technologies to learn from the millions of lines of existing copy on Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao e-commerce platforms.
To use the tool, copywriters simply insert a link into a product page and click a button to see different copy ideas generated by the machine. According to Alimama, the tone of the copy can also be selected. Current brands that use the tool include apparel chain Esprit and US clothing brand Dickies, and has been used “nearly a million times a day to create copies like this:
So if you are a copywriter, best to take note of what Alimama said in their statement:
“[The AI copywriter] significantly changes the way [copywriters] work: They will shift from thinking up copy – one line at a time – to choosing the best out of many machine-generated options, largely improving efficiency”
Best start preparing to move up value chain
The common theme across all these technologies are that they reduce the need for humans to do repetitive, non-creative work. If you don’t want to lose your jobs to these technologies, it’s important to be sure that you can do things that machines still can’t. These will include interacting and socialising with other people, and being creative.
And rather than wait until you lose your job, you should really start preparing for the jobs of tomorrow today.
(Featured image via)