SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Maria C. Horton, Andy Thurai, Zakia Bouachraoui

Blog Post

The 5 Obstacles in the Way of Automation

These 5 Challenges Are What’s Keeping Us From Advancing Automation

Automation has unrivaled potential to change our global workforce forever. Already, millions of workers (and some entire industries) have lost their jobs due to basic types of automation, like assembly line robots or search algorithms. In the next 13 years or so, we may lose up to 800 million more.

We’re making astounding progress in the realm of machine learning, AI, and automation, to the point where some technological optimists are already making plans for a fully jobless future. But at the same time, we’re years to decades away from automating even some of the more basic professional jobs.

Why? Because there are fundamental limitations preventing automation from moving forward.

Why Aren’t We Automating Everything?

So what’s really standing in the way of us making more progress in the automation space?

1. Job complexity. The most obvious stopping point is the sheer complexity of certain types of jobs. Basic tasks, which always follow the same routine, and have clear answers to every question that arises, are easy to automate with a basic algorithm. But jobs that require more ambiguous types of decision-making, such as incorporating human emotions and indefinable instincts, are much more difficult to tackle. The problem grows even more complex when human interactions are required.

2. Processing power. Machines need more data than humans do to “learn” a task. And we’re not just talking slight differences here; they need hundreds of thousands of times more raw data than humans need. Image and video recognition programs need to be fed millions of examples before they truly understand their subjects, and that eats up a ton of processing power. Accordingly, advanced machine learning algorithms (and the capacity for automation) require enormous servers, which are impractical for ground-level applications.

3. Consumer adoption and trust. Automated tools are already available for millions of tasks, from sending out batches of SMS texts to regulating pharmaceuticals. But consumers aren’t necessarily ready to adopt them. For example, many modern consumers hate the idea of riding in a self-driving car, because it means surrendering control to a machine they don’t fully trust. If customers aren’t willing to buy or support a new type of automation, companies and innovators aren’t going to be as interested in pursuing it.

4. Specialization vs. generalization. Today, we have the technology to create AI-driven, automated solutions for all kinds of problems—but very specific ones. Specialized AI can be custom-made to “understand” a certain topic, or behave in exactly the right way to make one type of decision, but creating a generalized AI, which can make more complex decisions and be applied to many different disciplines, is much harder. We’re decades away from seeing the rise of a truly successful general AI, which means every form of automation we’ll have for the next few years will be hyper-focused on one (or a few related) tasks.

5. Legal regulations. For some types of automation, legal regulations can also be a problem. For example, autonomous driving algorithms have come a long way, but industry moguls and regulators are still concerned about how those programs could be applied to the trucking industry. For roles that pose an inherent risk to human life or health, lawmakers are taking automation seriously.

How Fast Can We Grow?

Despite these challenges, experts in machine learning, innovative engineers, and visionary entrepreneurs are all competing to see who can come up with the next world-changing device or program. Each year, we see rise to new AI breakthroughs and gadgets in almost every industry, making iterative progress toward what could really be a jobless future.

Obstacles related to human concerns and intervention, such as overcoming legal, regulatory, and consumer adoption barriers, are the biggest impediments here. As for sheer processing power, and coming up with solutions for the most difficult jobs to automate, it’s hard to imagine we’re more than a few years away from a breakthrough—at least with today’s machine learning pace.

In the meantime, we all can take advantage of the automated tools currently within our grasp, and make our jobs a little easier—long before they have a chance of being replaced.

More Stories By Larry Alton

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Latest Stories
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin, ...
Historically, some banking activities such as trading have been relying heavily on analytics and cutting edge algorithmic tools. The coming of age of powerful data analytics solutions combined with the development of intelligent algorithms have created new opportunities for financial institutions. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sebastien Meunier, Head of Digital for North America at Chappuis Halder & Co., discussed how these tools can be leveraged to develop a lasting competitive advantage ...
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
"We were founded in 2003 and the way we were founded was about good backup and good disaster recovery for our clients, and for the last 20 years we've been pretty consistent with that," noted Marc Malafronte, Territory Manager at StorageCraft, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settl...
"At the keynote this morning we spoke about the value proposition of Nutanix, of having a DevOps culture and a mindset, and the business outcomes of achieving agility and scale, which everybody here is trying to accomplish," noted Mark Lavi, DevOps Solution Architect at Nutanix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
According to the IDC InfoBrief, Sponsored by Nutanix, “Surviving and Thriving in a Multi-cloud World,” multicloud deployments are now the norm for enterprise organizations – less than 30% of customers report using single cloud environments. Most customers leverage different cloud platforms across multiple service providers. The interoperability of data and applications between these varied cloud environments is growing in importance and yet access to hybrid cloud capabilities where a single appl...
@CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX, two of the most influential technology events in the world, have hosted hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors since our launch 10 years ago. @CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX New York and Silicon Valley provide a full year of face-to-face marketing opportunities for your company. Each sponsorship and exhibit package comes with pre and post-show marketing programs. By sponsoring and exhibiting in New York and Silicon Valley, you reach a full complement of decision makers and buyers in ...
In today's always-on world, customer expectations have changed. Competitive differentiation is delivered through rapid software innovations, the ability to respond to issues quickly and by releasing high-quality code with minimal interruptions. DevOps isn't some far off goal; it's methodologies and practices are a response to this demand. The demand to go faster. The demand for more uptime. The demand to innovate. In this keynote, we will cover the Nutanix Developer Stack. Built from the foundat...
"Cloud computing is certainly changing how people consume storage, how they use it, and what they use it for. It's also making people rethink how they architect their environment," stated Brad Winett, Senior Technologist for DDN Storage, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Sold by Nutanix, Nutanix Mine with Veeam can be deployed in minutes and simplifies the full lifecycle of data backup operations, including on-going management, scaling and troubleshooting. The offering combines highly-efficient storage working in concert with Veeam Backup and Replication, helping customers achieve comprehensive data protection for all their workloads — virtual, physical and private cloud —to meet increasing business demands for uptime and productivity.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessio...
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
A look across the tech landscape at the disruptive technologies that are increasing in prominence and speculate as to which will be most impactful for communications – namely, AI and Cloud Computing. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Curtis Peterson, VP of Operations at RingCentral, highlighted the current challenges of these transformative technologies and shared strategies for preparing your organization for these changes. This “view from the top” outlined the latest trends and developments i...