Editor's Note

Entering a new dimension


Welcome to another edition of South Africa’s favourite business-to-business mining quarterly. We’ve hardly had time to take a breath since the last time we touched base and now, there’s a positive political change in the air. Are we gearing up for an economic upswing in 2018?

If anybody can lead us into greater prosperity and lessen the frightening unemployment rates, it’s the new head honcho, Cyril Rhamaphosa, with his vast business acumen history, including directorships at Standard Bank, the Bidvest Group, Macsteel Holdings, Alexander Forbes, SAB Miller and MTN to name a few during his impressive business career, who is en route to amassing a net worth in the region of R6.4-billion.

However, South Africa is facing down a budget deficit that is pushing R100 billion if nothing is done in the coming years to stop the rot. I remember clearly, under the astute guidance of former Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, every effort was made to keep the deficit down to zero. Somewhere along the line, that spendthrift outlook was abandoned for a more laissez-faire approach to spending and human resource management.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to steal the headlines too as, for example, farm robots are developed and rolled out that can pick and sort food. It is only a matter of time before we face a sink or swim scenario locally, with our labour-heavy workforce, especially in agriculture.

Will we see a similar scenario, as in the motor industry where a certain amount of product needs to be made in South Africa to avoid import duty? In a similar way, will a time come when by law a certain percentage of jobs need to be ‘performed by humans’ and not AI. If not, how can we protect jobs?

If companies are allowed to go full AI, in less than 20 - 30 years some semi and skilled jobs will be replaced altogether. What then, what are the job prospects for the next generation? It will redefine society as we know it and the value of your skill set. It is also fascinating to read about how AI actually works. Instead of designing a robot that knows how to do X, Y and Z, a more human progression of learning is applied.

A robot starts off with a child-like mind and is then programmed to start learning new skills, for example, a new language in four hours, becoming a chessmaster or learning accountancy. It does not come out of the box complete, but rather ‘updates’ itself with various skills. It has been found that the biggest key to learning is regret. For example, people who don’t regret poor decisions never learn, because they are unaware.

Therefore AI is programmed to acknowledge when it makes a mistake, and learn from it. The ultimate question is, can AI show compassion, real compassion, because for me that is what separates man from machine.

comments powered by Disqus


This edition

Issue 42