According to the CEO of the tea company Dilmah, artificial intelligence could soon replace human participation in the tea picking aspect of the industry.
The observation was made by Dilhan Fernando, the CEO of Dilmah, a major Sri Lankan tea company. Fernando voiced his opinion after coming into contact with a humanoid robot developed by a Hong Kong-based firm called Hanson Robotics.
The robot, called “Sophie”, pushed Fernando to say that he had “no doubt” the tea picking industry would soon phase humans out. In fact, Fernando went further and admitted that artificial intelligence could soon reach a new level of expertise, surpassing human beings altogether.
While Fernando’s observations have been echoed by many, both Fernando and fellow believers admit that there are still great strides to be made.
The technology will come into play only after it has managed to fine tune every working aspect of the humanoid.
For instance, where the tea industry is concerned, Fernando stated that the robots should be capable of plucking the plant properly. This would involve picking “the two leaves and the bud”.
This technical aspect a robot could perhaps do. However, it would also need to use its own judgement to ascertain the ripeness of the plant. This would prove to be the greater challenge.
Additionally, the robot would need to traverse some rocky terrain, something machines have never been very successful at doing this.
Despite these drawbacks, Fernando still believes that robots could soon replace human hands. If his prediction comes true, it would have terrible consequences for the human workforce involved in the tea trade.
According to the sustainable development agency Solidaridad, almost 13 million people are involved in tea production worldwide.
Thus, if robots do replace humans in the tea industry, it would leave 13 million people with two hands that have no use, and a livelihood that they have been refused.