Today, a robot took my blood.
The famous words “I’ll be back” were made iconic by the Terminator character addressing the young John Connor character in the 1984 movie classic. Now, closer on four decades after that iconic scene was recorded, the world has arrived at the moment.
The robot is smart.
The robot is reaching an intelligence that makes it relatable. Almost human.
So this week I had to have my medical done.
I was booked at the Sanlam Medical Centre here in Dubai. The appointment was for 11h00 and I had cleared my morning and early afternonn for the visit to the hospital.
I had a full roster of medicals to do. Blood tests. X-Ray. COVID.
We’ve all had to make these trips & each time we do, we prepare ourselves for a time-consuming soul-crushing visit bottled in cluster-phobic encounters, overflowing hospital lobbies, and the stench of untreated illnesses. Hospitals, especially public hospitals, for most of us are not pleasant environments.
And this is not to mention the toll that these spaces take on the mental and physical health of health workers.
So I arrive at the SmartSalem.
At the door, I am greeted by a security agent. A robotic security agent. I am invited inside & am asked to present my passport to the robotic assistant whose smile is warm but eery. My data, my travel documents, history of COVID tests and the their results, history of travel destinations and most recent picture are projected on their user-screen for me to confirm.
After confirmation, a soft nudge from a shorter robotic assistant who is standing next to me.
“Can I offer you something to drink Sir?” asks the robot while I stand in awe.
“Yes”, I said.
“What beverage suits you Sir?”
“Coffee”, I reply.
The robot scurries off into the kitchenette.
A few moments later, she (if this is the correct pronoun to use for a robot with female characteristics) returns with my coffee.
Black Americano. No sugar. No milk.
The robot assistant that was signing me in, gives me a user number. This is my ticket for accessing the various rooms in the hospital and tracking which services I access.
I enter a calm yoga-like room with a massive projector image of a waterfall & the calming sounds of trickling waters into a never-full river stream.
A nurse welcomes me with a warm smile. She calmly asks me to lay on the bed so that she can take my blood. She took my blook and inserted the vial of blood into the storage cupboard in the chest piece of a separate robotic entity.
A few moments later, a similar experience in the x-ray room.
And less than 18minutes after entering the hospital, the full visit is done. 18 minutes!
In the movie The Terminator, the central thesis is that human civilization would be overrun by smart robotic systems centrally controlled by a supreme intelligence run on AI. The thesis is that variation in actions & free will can be predicted using predictive analytics, super-computing & machine learning.
In this world, robots emerge to take over the world & human civilization is forced into the crevices of society. Barely managing to survive.
This dystopian view of the world of artificial intelligence may be alarmist but the underlying truism holds, THE FUTURE IS NOW.
These advancements are not fads. These are the technology platforms that the future is built on.
Scaling these technologies would fundamentally change access to critical social services like health, education and food.
Here is a sober question, which African government do you think is harnessing these technologies?
Vusi Thembekwayo is a Global Speaker. Venture Investor. Leader.