It is a story that is repeated every day, every year and in all centuries. The human being has the unique ability to make what is difficult and vice versa easy, but he also has this fantastic ability to adapt to all scenarios and situations, to change, to create and essentially to dream, this “constant of life as concrete and defined as anything else ”. The need will always be “the mother of the invention”.
This comes with regard to the development of Artificial Intelligence and the so-called Industry 4.0, also known as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, new concepts that are already transforming companies and the nature of work and consumption. We can see that even in these difficult times that we are living; the COVID 19 pandemic made teleworking, consumption through digital channels, connectivity, remote education, telemedicine and virtual conferences a priority . The confinement caused by the coronavirus forced us to rethink our daily life and forced us to use digital tools to maintain the so-called normality. The pandemic accelerated a revolution that was already underway.
Two years ago, an OECD report stated that “the tasks that artificial intelligence and robots cannot do are rapidly decreasing”, estimated that 14% of jobs would disappear due to automation and that 32% of jobs would undergo changes deep. In August of this year, in an article published in Time, economists from MIT – Masachussets Institute of Technology, revealed that robots could replace up to two million workers in the industry by 2025. In the USA alone, 40 million jobs were eliminated at the height of the pandemic. and economists warn that 42% of jobs lost will not be recovered. Daniel Susskind, from the University of Oxford and author of the book “A world without work: technology, automation and how we must respond”, stated that“This pandemic created a very strong incentive to make the work of human beings autonomous (…) machines don’t get sick, they don’t need to isolate themselves to protect their colleagues, they don’t need to leave work”.
If, in the past, large companies needed more workers to be successful, today it is not so. Automation and artificial intelligence have enabled more to be done with fewer people, facilitating and optimizing tasks that were previously performed by humans.
Maintaining human relationships
The shipping industry is no exception to this new order. The emergence of digital freight forwarders such as Flexport, Freighthub, Twill or Zencargo allowed what few years ago, many thought was impossible, such as the automation of quotes or the integration of “schedules” and all information regarding “carriers” .
Within the sector, in Portugal and in the world, digitization has been the new watchword. Companies, customers, employees and partners live, collaborate and communicate in a digital environment, seeking to streamline processes, reduce costs and increase their productivity. Everyone seems to be aware that the future is here and anyone who doesn’t adapt can live very difficult times
Very recently, a new English digital freight forwarder, Beacon, founded in 2018 by two former Uber executives, went public to ensure that “with digitization accelerating globally as a result of COVID-19, we believe the future of the traditional forwarder it is more precarious than ever ”. The company, which has just been the target of an investment of $ 15 million by Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, has already announced that it will invest this money in the development of artificial intelligence systems, in the cloud, in data science and automation of logistical operations. According to Beacon CEO Fraser Robinson,“Our main objective is to create a disruption in the market, significantly improving the experience for importers and exporters, offering more transparent and intelligent transport services”.
However, can the attention that is currently being given to digitization and technology and the systems advocated by artificial intelligence put people and human relationships in question? Is technology already being more important than human beings?
The sector aspires for greater flexibility, more information and transparency, something that digital can provide, but that does not mean that the personal relationship with the client is put aside, since this dynamic means one of the great assets of companies transitory: trust.
And this is gained or lost through the relationships that are established. Relations with people and not with digital platforms. None of these technologies will look us in the eye and shake our hands to seal a deal. Artificial intelligence, however developed it may be, will never overcome emotional intelligence to “solve” a last-minute problem or haggle over a price. Technology can and should be used to point the way forward, but the choice, the “free will”, will always be human. And it is in this dialysis that the great challenge of the digital freight forwarder is found.
It is hoped that this pandemic, in addition to teaching us about the importance of technology in our lives, also alerts us to the meaning that human relationships have and that cannot and should not be neglected, particularly in business. We all yearn for a hug, a handshake, a word of comfort or encouragement. Because we all want to see and we want to be.
Because it is MEN who CREATE easy and difficult times, even if they are strong or weak.
Author: Pedro Pereira (Journalist for eighteen years of the publication “Transportes em Revista”)