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Amazons Drones: It’s bound to happen
by Kerry Hallard, CEO National Outsourcing Association
Thursday, December 05, 2013

But what are implications for ‘Generation Touchscreen’?

My first thought when I saw Amazon’s plan to deliver packages within a half hour via unmanned flying drones was: ‘this is a pre-Christmas publicity stunt.’ My second was, ‘I wonder who they’d outsource it to? Who’d be their unmanned airborne logistics partner?”

If it is just a PR play, it’s a very clever one because everyone is talking about it. Many of them saying it’ll never catch on. It does sound like some whimsical invention straight off The Jetsons’ cartoon world of hi-tech utopia, set in 2062. 

But the fact of the matter is the US Federal Aviation Authority is currently reviewing its regulations on civil unmanned aircraft, and the requisite technology is perfected for use in warzones - so it’s only a matter of time before flying parcels are the norm. Maybe 2015 is a bit ambitious, but what will life be like in 2062?

Already gasping for air on a life support machine, the High Street might be completely kaput by then. Energy and fuel costs might have skyrocketed to such crazy rates that your average Joe/Joanne can’t afford to drive to an out-of-town shopping centre. Come 2062, perhaps flying drones will be the only way to get stuff.

If you’ve seen A Day in the Life of a Kiva Robot on YouTube, you’ll see how Amazon’s $775m acquisition of Kiva Systems last year is revolutionising their warehousing - robots taking walking out of the equation for order pickers, improving efficiency and of course, reducing headcount dramatically (although this seems very different to the BBC’s Panorama, where an undercover journo joined Amazon’s army of order pickers and walked 11 miles on each night shift).

When you see what can be done with a warehouse, it gets all the more credible that similar capabilities could be used to take over the skies, given the right regulatory environment. So what then for the order pickers and delivery drivers and checkout operators and postmen? How will those people make a crust in 2062?

In 2062, if you can’t compose an algorithm you might be short of a job (and with the retirement age now set at 101, that poses big problems.) 

Even what’s considered a basic skill might change. People born in the 2010s onwards, forming a huge wave of toddlers with chronic iPad addictions, might be able to code software - but may find actually speaking to people intimidatingly difficult.

‘Generation X-Box’ is already leaving higher education sadly lacking in the soft skills department. ‘Generation Touchscreen’ might have a completely different human experience than the one we’re having now. Tap the screen, wait a while, collect your new games console from the front step. Minimal human interaction and proud of it. Previous astounding technological leaps brought people closer together; the motorcar, the aeroplane, social networking - the latest leaps look like doing the opposite.

Evolution marches on, and exciting disruptive technologies are always welcome, but let’s not forget that these innovations are created collaboratively, by people working together to devise the best solutions. The further we go to taking human interaction out of the human experience, the less likely the next generation will be to achieve their own ground-breaking innovations. Only genuine partnership could cure cancer or end world hunger, not flying solo.

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