(BarbadosToday)Barbados needs to have a serious discussion on the future of automation and robotics within the employment sector, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kerrie Symmonds said.
Addressed the Barbados Workers’ Union 82nd Annual Delegates Conference at Solidarity House on Saturday, Symmonds even though some in Barbados may believe that such technologies are a long way in coming to the island, from his travels in other jurisdictions, the reality is much different, and discussions on the matter must take place.
“I see drive-thru windows which are serviced only by a robotic arm and an automatic teller machine; I see robots cleaning hotel rooms; I am told one robot can now replace an entire shift in an housekeeping department; I am told that in some places visitors have returned to hotels but staff have not returned,” Symmonds said.
“And when I ask why staff have not returned to hotels, the answer is that there are robotic servers, intelligent computer systems, artificial concierges overing check-in and check-out services. All of these are becoming a lived reality in parts of this world.
“The world is moving at lightning speed in a direction that we are not talking about sufficiently enough in Barbados,” he added.
He said employers and employees must prepare themselves for such drastic changes coming to their industries in the near future.
“What we must do, is to be sufficiently alert to the situation, that while we watch these deployments, we bear in mind that the most vital possession that any Barbadian worker can have, is his or her job security,” Symmonds said.
“There can be no doubt that artificial intelligence will likely bring with it a number of positive effects, including speed, including efficiency. Equally, it is clear that in these early stages there are a number of applications of robotics and automation, artificial intelligence, that have had and continue to have their fair share of problems as they impact tasks and centres of the economy where they have been deployed.”
The Minister added: “Workers’ representatives, nor we in government [as] policymakers, can’t afford the luxury of being casual bystanders as this global transformation comes our way. Creation of a set of rules, security, privacy surrounding artificial intelligence on the island must be undertaken.”