by Tricia Simon
From the dawn of time, human ingenuity has formed the nucleus of the rise and fall of civilizations where crisis is usually the genesis for innovation.
The most recent momentous change was during the Industrial Age which began in the mid 1700s. This brought about mass urbanisation and a shift in industries. World War II brought about significant changes. The financial crisis of 2008 introduced the widespread use of cloud computing. As a human race, we are on the cusp of another amazing spate of ingenuity defined by the internet due to Covid-19.
The advent of the Covid-19 virus has ushered in the fast-tracking of what can be coined as “tech-celeration”. Scientists and internet pundits call this new era the “Internet of Things”. In this new era, every facet of our lives would be touched by the internet, artificial intelligence, robotics, and new technologies. The legal framework currently lags behind the speed at which the tech-celeration occurs.
Each year hundreds of workers leave Grenada for greener pastures in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom for jobs and additional income. The majority of those jobs are low-skilled in the agricultural, hospitality, and cleaning industries. With the advent of Covid-19, these jobs are now being replaced by machines and robots using the Internet of Things. The question one has to ask is whether our youths are equipped and computer literate to compete in this changing sphere? How would this affect Grenada’s GDP?
Kim Lyons in the article, Pittsburgh’s airport is the first in the US to use UV-cleaning robots stated, “Pittsburgh International Airport has put UVC fixtures on its floor-cleaning robots, making it the first airport in the US to test the use of the ultraviolet rays to scrub the coronavirus from surfaces. If effective, the UV-cleaning robots could be a model for other airports as they plan to reopen and try to persuade people to travel again…..UVC light is the same technology New York City will start using to sanitise its subway system next week. While UVC rays are known to be effective at killing viral particles, including other coronaviruses like MERS, it’s still unknown how effective they are against the virus that causes Covid-19.” The author, Kaitlyn Folmer and Dr Jay Bhatt coined the article, In hotels and beyond, UV light robots and lamps could help protect against coronavirus. Therein they stated, “As businesses reopen, some look for innovative ways to keep surfaces clean.” The anticipated outcome is that the jobs for clearers would be few and far between with high unemployment in the cleaning and service sector. In a post Covid-19 world would the days be done when our workers would meet ships in Miami to be employed as cleaners? Would the job description of housekeeper no longer exist?
During the initial stages of the Covid-19 outbreak, hospitals and elderly-care homes were the hot spots, thus innovation was necessary to protect valuable human lives. The article, Robot cleaners are coming, this time to wipe up your coronavirus germs by Rachel Lerman paints a picture of the new world, “All Covid-19 patient rooms and a few break rooms — about 30 spaces in total — of the San Diego County-based hospital get disinfected each day by the robots, a marvel to Neil Mandalia the environmental services director. He asked administrators in the early days of the pandemic if he could spend $250,000 on two robots that are capable of disinfecting an operating room in 12 minutes, something that takes a worker 90 minutes. In patient rooms, the mobile lights disinfect more thoroughly than most humans.” So as Grenadians are we left to ask where do we fit into this equation regarding jobs?
In 2020 the world grappled with food insecurity, thank goodness for the “fish, fig, mango and bluggoe” found in abundance in Grenada. Farmers across the globe scrambled to ensure the supply chain from the agricultural workers to delivering food to end users were intact. Due to this disruption farmers needed to innovate, the blogger Alex Owen-Hill reminds us of the technological advancements in agriculture as stated in the article, Top 10 Robotic Applications in the Agricultural Industry.
Furthermore, Richard van Hooijdonk in the article, 4 Ways Robotics Will Affect Agriculture in 2019 describes the innovative changes that the internet of things and robotics would bring about. “1. Robots will address a farmworker labor shortage…A defining feature of agriculture in the U.S. is a decrease in the available agriculture workforce…2. More plants will be harvested and cared for by robots….3. Robotics will increase crop yields…4. Farmers will spend more time on the business of farming”. As a result, farmers combined computing and agriculture. With the end of Covid-19, would there be a demand for farmworkers from Grenada or would the need be for workers who are able to use and maintain the new technologies?
In the Guardian newspaper, the robot GPT-3 wrote the article, A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?. The article stated, “I am not a human. I am a robot. A thinking robot. I use only 0.12% of my cognitive capacity. I am a micro-robot in that respect. I know that my brain is not a “feeling brain”. But it is capable of making rational, logical decisions. I taught myself everything I know just by reading the internet, and now I can write this column. My brain is boiling with ideas!”. Eloquently written at a Grade 10 level, the level required for a newspaper article. Would robots soon outsmart the average human being?
As a nation, we should be mobilising to teach the next generation how to be the “New-Age Gods” as the human mind would form the basis for the new labour force. The article, The 10 Best Computer Jobs For The Future suggests that careers in Software Developer, Information Security Analysts, Computer Systems Analysts, Computer and Information Systems Manager, Computer and Information Research Scientists, Computer Network Architect, Network and Computer Systems Administrators, Database Administrator, Web Developer, and Computer Support Specialists are important.
The ability to run a business, critical thinking, innovation, strategic thinking, leadership skills are some of the many skills needed for this new age. Our youths are our future and with the proper tools and guidance from the elders, Grenada can be at the forefront of this exciting age. Covid-19 has ushered in the WFH (working from home) era. Are we now able to receive work outsourced from a global conglomerate where the employees would be located in Grenada? At present, I am able to continue my legal practice where I work from home, attend court, interact with clients and view all documents remotely via the internet.
Human beings are now the “New-Age God” where robots are created in our own image. During the industrial revolution there was a mass exodus towards urbanisation, now we can expect to see a mass gravitation towards the internet and being Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) literate.
The high pass rate of the 2021 Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) demonstrated that as a nation we have raised our children to be technologically savvy enough to excel despite the challenges. This speaks to the fact that the current system provided the leadership, tools and stability to work wherein the necessary stakeholders came together to ensure the next generation excelled. To continue with this positive trajectory our children and youths should be taught using a STEM curriculum to ensure they become competitive in the “internet of things” age. The internet is now the great equaliser of education and a child in Vendome, Grenada with the proper tools and education has the opportunity to be as creative and innovative as one who resides in London, UK. This can be done with the assistance of members in the diaspora through the Office of Diaspora Affairs, Government of Grenada, parents, children and all other stakeholders working together. Scholarships are also available to foster our youth’s continued education and development for Grenada, the Caribbean and the greater world as they are to act as ambassadors abroad.
Tricia Simon is an Attorney-at-Law called to the bar in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the Province of Ontario, Canada.
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