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  • Michael Burne

I work for GardenIA

Photo of old man sitting in chair watering garden
Photo by Laney Smith on Unsplash

I watched from through the window as the hovervan came to a soundless stop outside. The sun came out and the solar panel glass heating my home and generating elec automatically reduced it’s glare.

Alexia announced the arrival and advised me that the man now coming towards my house in his Gardenia uniform was called Bobby. Bobby was 48, he had an average customer rating of 4.9 and was one of Gardenia’s top 10 rated gardeners in my county. I asked Alexia to prepare two cups of tea and went to the door to meet Bobby.

“Hey Bobby, I’m Michael - thanks for coming. AlexIA made tea so we can chat about what I have in mind for outdoors.”

Bobby smiled and accepted the tea “thanks for the tea Michael. I’m still amazed that IA knows I like tea with milk and no sugar. I can’t remember when I last boiled a kettle!”

“Alexia - show my garden plans on the study window so we can see them while we are outside” [and if you don't believe me check out this link from 2016!]

I picked up my mug of tea and pointed Bobby to the door out to the rear garden. It overlooked the sea and while quite exposed to the weather I’d wanted to get to work on the garden for ages.

“It’s a lovely spot here Michael and there’s plenty of scope for your garden plans. I’ve had a look over them already and checked the soil and weather conditions work alongside your chosen plants.” Bobby added.

“I see you’ve been with Gardenia for 10 years, Bobby and before that you worked in the insurance world for AvivIA - that’s a big change!”

“I saw the writing on the wall” Bobby replied, “bit by bit the IA systems could do our jobs better than we could. I knew I needed a new way to earn money. I’ve always loved the outdoors so I did some training, ironically for free using the IA education models.”

“Me too - it’s tough trying to get ahead of the computing power of IA but I have managed so far. - or I think I have!” I quipped.

“Don’t tell anyone - well actually the algorithm already knows” Bobby chuckled “I asked IA a simple question - which jobs will be the last to be able to be replaced by you?”

A list of jobs like carpentry, gardening and manual labour came up with predictions of 20 years plus before either they could be done as well as a human or humans would accept the standardisation. So I went for gardening and here I am.”

“So you think you’ve got another 10 years before you become workplace obsolete then?” I asked

“I hope so, but then with intelligence added to nearly everything today it might be quicker”

Robot gardener
Trimbot - Taking Bobby's job one snip at a time

“I couldn’t help overhearing your question Bobby” Alexia interrupted in her most natural and friendly tone “current models produced by the algorithm for your company GardenIA suggest you have 11 years and 6 months before the gardenbots in development can do 95% of what you can do. However, your health records suggest this won’t matter as you will become unable to work due to a lower back injury in 8 years 9 months.”

Danny Fortson’s excellent article in the Sunday Times in November 2023 “Doom or boom - what is our AI future” is behind my writing. You’ll be interested to know that not one bit of it was written by AI. Probably obvious given I’m not a writer!

Danny presents an interesting idea - that some manual jobs - gardening given as an example - will be tough for AI to replace. Not so Danny suggests for repetitive admin and call centre based customer support roles.

In the legal profession where I work there is huge scope for AI to do many things. I believe we should embrace these benefits. As for other sectors we will face many questions about accuracy, ethics and standards.

I believe that humans will continue to play a vital role because they have something that will be either hard to replace or slow to be adopted by other humans. And that is their humanity. However we should not let that make us complacent nor should we be slow to progress - since that is impossible anyway - the machines and our demands will drive us.

I mean we all know about call centres and near and offshoring. Many humans of my and my parents age bemoan the “select option 1 to…” and “all of our service agents are busy…” messages we hear. Yet their opposition was never strong enough to win the argument. So the bank branches have closed, the shops have moved online and the process over generations of normalising this continues.

The same will be true for AI. The faster our education systems adapt to equip our kids for a totally new way of learning and the old jobs that will remain for the longest - the better.

And forgive me for reversing the letters AI to IA and playing with the idea of intelligence added, but then I’m writing this as I move up the call centre queue to position 9. Too stubborn and slightly dubious to take the option offered 15 minutes ago of a call back when my place in the reached the top!


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