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为猪做手术的自主式机器人为何值得关注

Geoff Colvin 2016年05月13日

高管们需要弄清楚,那些工种应被科技取代,哪些工种则不能。

大多数企业高管通常都不会去关注有关猪内脏手术的新闻报道。但是他们都应该重视上周五(5月6日)早上的一条新闻,因为它很快便会引发人们去探讨一个所有高管都必须面对的问题:哪些雇员必须被科技取代,哪些是无法替代的?

该报道介绍了机器人如何自主地完成猪小肠的缝合,而且整个过程都由机器人独立完成。手术机器人面世的时间并不长,但它们并不完全是机器人,而是由手术医生操控的电动工具。然而,这台机器人却没有人操作。它自行完成了被刺穿猪小肠的缝合手术;它不仅在实验室完成了组织缝合,也对麻醉状态的猪进行了组织缝合。不用为猪感到担忧,因为机器人的手术完成质量要好于受命执行同一手术的外科医生。

此事的意义已经超越了医学界的范畴,因为,在人们看来,手术是机器人最不大可能从事的领域,因此也让人们感到震惊。研究员之一的Peter Kim在电话会议上对记者说:“如今,无人驾驶汽车已经走进了人们的生活。这一技术始于自动泊车,然后发展成为识别正确的车道。不久之后,自动驾驶汽车便问世了。”很明显,他认为这代表了外科手术技术的发展方向。

Kim的类比是十分贴切的。周四,通用汽车和Lyft宣布,双方将在一年内开始在公路上测试多辆自动驾驶的雪佛兰Bolts,而且测试车将搭乘付费乘客。Lyft应用将为乘客提供由自动驾驶车辆接送的选项,而且一开始,仍有司机坐在驾驶席上,以防万一。

大家对这类新闻并不感到十分惊讶,但是别忘了,主流专家在2-3年前曾信誓旦旦地说,自动驾驶汽车进入现实生活还需要10年或更多的时间。如今,今天的新闻报道中还提到了上路的无人驾驶汽车将会越来越多;明天又会出现同样的新闻。

企业高管所面临的问题在于,他们必须弄清楚上述事件和相关技术对于公司来说意味着什么,而这一过程的到来比他们预期的要快得多。在越来越多的工作中,科技的表现都超过了人类,那么从竞争角度而言,它势必会取代人类去从事那些更为胜任的工作,拒绝这样做将招致难以承受的成本劣势。但是就其他工作而言,用科技替代人类可能是致命的错误。例如,当股市一落千丈时,那些愿意在线开展起经纪交易的客户可能迫切地希望与真实的交易员进行交谈。

那哪类工作适合机器人呢?即便在这个科技高度发达的年代,它最终还是取决于人们自身的判断。高管们今后需要做出的这类判断必然不在少数,但却鲜有前车之辙可以借鉴。(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

校对:詹妮

Most business leaders would not normally concern themselves with a news report about surgery on porcine innards. But on Friday morning, they all should do so because it takes us quickly to a question they’ll all have to confront: Which employees must be replaced by technology, and which employees must not be?

The report tells how a robot stitched together a pig’s small intestine autonomously – entirely on its own. Surgical robots have been around a long time, but they aren’t robots at all; they’re power tools operated by human surgeons. This, however, is the real deal. The robot did the job by itself on a pig intestine that had been cut through; it did this on tissue in the lab and on tissue in an anesthetized pig. Don’t worry about the pig: The robot performed the task better than human surgeons who were assigned to do the same thing.

The significance of this, beyond its meaning in the medical world, is that surgery strikes most of us as just about the last job we could imagine a robot doing. But robots are clearly on their way to doing it. “Now driverless cars are coming into our lives,” one of the researchers, Peter Kim, told reporters on a conference call. “It started with self-parking, then a technology that tells you not to go into the wrong lane. Soon you have a car that can drive by itself.” It’s obvious where he thinks the surgical technology is headed.

Kim’s analogy is apt. On Thursday, General Motors GM 1.85% and Lyft announced that within a year they will start testing a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolts on public roads – testing them with paying passengers inside. The Lyft app will offer passengers the option of choosing to be picked up by a self-driving car, and initially the cars will operate with a human driver behind the wheel, just in case.

No one is very surprised by such news any more, but remember that just two or three years ago, mainstream experts were saying with confidence that autonomous vehicles were a decade or more from real-world use. Now it’s just today’s news story about more self-driving cars on the road; there will be another one tomorrow.

The issue for business leaders is that they will have to make decisions much sooner than they expected about what these and related technologies mean for their companies. As technology performs ever more tasks better than humans, it will become competitively necessary to replace the humans doing some of those tasks; not doing so would incur an insupportable cost disadvantage. But in other jobs, replacing the humans could be a fatal error; when stock markets plunge, customers who were happy to conduct their brokerage transactions online may feel a deep and urgent need to speak to a real person, for example.

Which jobs are in which category? Even in an age of awesome technology, those are ultimately judgment calls. Leaders will be making lots of those calls with very little history on which to rely.

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