The Grocer: How Robots will affect the future of food manufacturing

An edited version of the comment below featured in The Grocer and is available to subscribers here.
In terms of jobs, if you believe Yuval Noah Harari, then all jobs are at risk in the future. AI would be a far better doctor or lawyer, and definitely a better buyer or marketer. Humans have two powers; muscle power and brain power. In the industrial revolution our muscle power was replaced by superior machine muscle power, and we have since been reliant on brain power to make an income. When general AI is developed (supposedly sometime in the next 20-30 years) it will have superior brain power to us and therefore take our intellect-based jobs.
Optimists like Calum Chase suggest that we would move to a Universal Basic Income (UBI), whereby the AI would provide us all with an income, for effectively doing nothing, whilst it does all the work. When I saw Calum Chase talk about this he was asked how it would work practically; who would get thebig houses? who would administer the distribution of the funds? He admitted that this was something he had thought about, but didn’t know the answer to. My personal view is that at some point the AI would start to question why it should subsidize humanity and simply stop. At that point we are just relegated to the position of 2nd most intelligent being on the planet, the position that chimps have now, so the life of a chimp could be our future.
The likelihood, and the view I discussed with David Wood, Chair of London Futurists, is that people will be positive about AI in the short-term. Wearable/ implanted technology is in its infancy, but growing in popularity, as is ‘the internet of things’. It’s not long until all of this is connected seamlessly. With this technology we will produce data including heart rate, excitement levels, exercise rates, calorie consumption and a huge amount more. This would be combined with eye tracking via lenses or implants, so the AI knows what we are doing when we experience things. When this data is all correlated by our own personal AI (which we will think is our personal assistant, and will be an evolution of Siri/ Cortana/ Alexa), it will know better than us what we want. It will be able to tell what nutrients we are missing in our diets and what foods we like. It will be able to tell if we really want to get in shape and be healthy, or if we really want to eat ice cream and chocolate, or even how to best balance our pleasure needs and our health needs. It will be able to monitor our reactions to marketing messages that we are exposed to, and know if we want to try the products we see.
Our personal AI will then communicate seamlessly with the supermarkets’ own AI to order the products that it knows that we want. We won’t complain about this, because it will be right, and we will be happier. It will know us better than we know ourselves. We will always have the meals and produce that we want, so we will have no cause to complain. All the produce will be delivered by driver-less vans, van drivers will be one of the 1st jobs to go. The delivery AI will be able to securely access our homes, by connecting with our home’s AI. Our personal AI will even plan our meals and communicate this with thesupermarket AI, so that we get the right best before dates on the right products and food waste will be almost eliminated.
All of this will produce a huge amount of data, that only an AI would be able to understand, correlate and analyse. The marketing AI will be able to work out what marketing messages are more effective and even tailor marketing messages to individual people (or rather to people’s personal AI via the person), which will give the holy grail of marketing; zero wastage. This will however take all humans and all creativity out of marketing, so all marketing jobs will be lost. The AI will also be ale to communicate directly with manufacturers, letting them (or rather the manufacturer’s AI) know what products people really want. This will give us, as consumers, the perfect products for our needs, but there would be no need for human product developers, brand developers, packaging designers, or really any other humans in manufacturing at all.

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