⦁ Besides high-skill jobs, the generative AI revolution can be transformative for urban governance.
⦁ It does look like a ChatGPT revolution is beckoning us today just like the internet and Google did at the beginning of the millennium.
⦁ On the face of it, such AI-powered bots are quite skill-intensive.
⦁ Given a query, these bots use generative AI to sift through enormous amounts of data, which enables them to create intelligent and insightful responses.
⦁ So the thinking is that these bots will increasingly replace high-skilled jobs.
⦁ But can they also play a community role in providing a variety of services?
⦁ Not enough attention is being paid to this potential. Tellingly, in a December 2021 online survey of around 20,000 adults across 28 countries, on how they expected the increased use of AI to change their lives in the next 3-5 years, 35% mentioned education, 33% mentioned safety, 32% employment, but public services were not mentioned.
⦁ The employment effects of automation are primarily influenced by the type of tasks in which machines develop their comparative advantage over workers.
⦁ During the First Industrial Revolution in England, automation enabled unskilled workers to undertake work previously carried out by artisans and craftsmen.
⦁ During the 1980s, information technologies replaced workers from jobs with high routine task content, leading to a decline in middle-wage jobs in the US labour market.
Low-skilled routine jobs
⦁ While ChatGPT is an example of automation that is high-skilled performance of non-routine tasks, is there a way for automation of low skilled routine jobs ?
⦁ Already robots are replacing waiters and waitresses in ageing societies such as Japan.
⦁ Even our own Bengaluru has a restaurant where robots serve food.
⦁ There is the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaning machine that can see home furnishings and intelligently manoeuvre around them to clean homes.
⦁ There are many smart homes in the US which use this technology to clean even when the owners are not around – which we encountered much to our dismay once in Florida.
⦁ Robots are being used in dusty environments where humans are prone to respiratory problems, thereby improving worker safety.
Public services:
⦁ Recently the Union finance minister mentioned in her budget speech machines that can eliminate manual scavenging in our cities.
⦁ Our city roads are riddled with potholes which cause traffic jams, long commute times, accidents, and many health issues.
⦁ In fact, this was initiated in the UK in 2020, where autonomous repair robots can identify cracks in the roads really quickly, and flatten these with asphalt.
⦁ Census 2011 found that nearly 20% of our slum households did not have a toilet on their premises.
⦁ Our cities continue to be characterised by poor solid waste management and sanitation.
⦁ It would be great if we could use bots and robots to help clear waste and make our cities clean.
⦁ In the US, cities have begun depending on AI-assisted robots to sort solid waste in recycling plants.
⦁ This is one reason why many households in the US no longer need to segregate waste.
⦁ So even beyond helping end manual scavenging, mechanical sorting of waste can really safeguard sanitation workers from health hazards – especially in our cities where workers do not have gloves or protective gear even in the post-Covid world, such bots would be much appreciated.
⦁ There is also the recent news of a trashbot being used to segregate municipal waste in Chickballapur and Bommasandra in Bengaluru.
Alternative livelihoods

⦁ There is a comparative advantage in using automation in all the above areas as robots are efficient.
⦁ Moreover, they can relieve low-skilled and low-wage workers from hazardous jobs.
⦁ Government should create skill development and entrepreneurship programmes to give them alternative livelihoods.
⦁ Bots such as ChatGPT are conversational and this feature can also be really useful in improving governance in our cities – where there are never ever enough officials to answer all public queries.
⦁ Overall smart cities need smart deployment of intelligent machines.


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