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What is remote intelligence?

Discuss about the Remote Intelligence In Telecommunication.

Globalization is a form of arbitrage that is driven by the concept that certain items can be sourced more economically in one region or country than in others.  In the modern world, there are significant differences in international wages and salaries: arbitraging wage differences has proved to be a more difficult challenge (Boisot and Meyer, 2008).  Further, widespread political opposition to mass migration of low wage workers mean that these skilled workers are mostly stuck at home with limited or no opportunities (de Haas, 2008). However, with the advent of technology, it is possible for low wage and highly skilled workers to sell their labor in richer nations and regions without the need to leave their home countries, such that labor crosses borders without the laborers and immigrants crossing the borders as well (Tyrväinen, 2016).

Advances and convergence in telecommunication and computing means that many more people can work remotely without ever leaving their homes in an economical way: in a manner that does not disrupt fragile border and political relations that would occur in the event of mass migration. This is the brave new world of remote intelligence in which companies and organizations find new uses for two way communication through wireless telemetry and communicate with remote devices to among other things create new opportunities and improve customer service (Salvalaggio, 2018). This paper discusses the concept of the rise of remote intelligence in a historical context after defining it as well as explains why remote intelligence is not necessarily telecommuting.  The paper also discusses why companies use remote intelligence and how this has been enabled and whether it will significantly threaten the sustainability of western work forces. The paper then discusses remote intelligence and the ethics behind it as well as its merits and demerits. Finally, the paper discusses the required leadership skills and style necessary for the sustainable management of remote intelligence

Tele commuting is a work arrangement where employees do not travel or commute to a centralized place of work; instead they work from home. Teleworkers in the twenty first century make use of mobile communication technologies, for instance computers, Wi-Fi equipped laptops and portables, or even smart phones to work from any location, including in coffee shops (Siha and Monroe, 2006). Data from Reuters shows that 20 percent of workers in Asia, Middle East, and Latin America frequently telecommute and about 10% of these workers work daily from home. In the early 2000s, even taking vacation or being on annual leave was seen as being absent from work rather than ceasing work and office employees used telecommunications technologies to telework, enabling them check their work e-mails and other correspondence even when on vacation (Reaney, 2012). In the 1990s, pop culture took attention of telecommuting leading to the coining of the term

Remote intelligence vs telecommuting

Work is something that you do, not something you have to travel to

In 1995, Governments, nonprofit organizations, and businesses have slowly adopted telecommuting to lower costs such as costs of hiring out office space, improve the quality of life of workers, and allow workers balance family roles with work responsibilities, as well as for environmental reasons to reduce pollution (Gajendran and Harrison, 2007). Data shows that about 40% of the US working population (50 million) can work from home even if part of the time; a marked increase from 2008 when just about 2.5 million excluding self-employed persons, used their home as their primary place of work.  By 2010, about 9.4 million workers in the US (about 6.6% of the labor force) have reported working from home (Reynolds, 2017). Telecommuting has gained greater prevalence from 1995, paralleling the advances in telecommunications, and now the internet.

Remote intelligence is a form of productive engagement in the labor force in which a laborer performs work from a remote location, making use of available telecommunication and communications technologies. For instance, a hotel cleaner working from Mexico or South America will be able to clean a hotel room using Telerobotics, where they remotely control the cleaning robot. In this case, instead of AI (artificial intelligence) controlling the robot, a human being across the globe actually does control the robot. A skilled surgeon in India can perform a delicate operation through a robot on a patient in the USA without physically being present in the USA. In the same period (between 1994 and 2014), countries such as the US have experienced a significant decline in male participation in the labor force for males aged between 18 and 54 years; this makes it the second to experience such a decline among OECD nations.  The main reason is because manufacturing jobs are being outsourced, helped by advances in technology in production methods; this has made employment in this sector no longer cost efficient.  At present, white collar jobs are faced with this strain as well; with high skilled workers capable of being ousted, thanks to technology like robotics and advances in telecommunication and the internet (Baldwin, 2017).

Telecommuting essentially refers to working from home and making use of technologies such as e-mail., the internet, and telephone to work.  Remote intelligence entails using skilled workers located in remote locations to operate machinery or equipment that results in productive work as though the person was actually working on site.  For instance, telemedicine is a form of remote intelligence where patients are diagnosed remotely and even medicines prescribed, or tele-surgery (Fell, 2014). Another example is the operation of drones; the US military and other developed nations, for example, use skilled soldiers from a remote location to operate drones in conflict areas without risking life and other expensive equipment such as aircraft.  The operator is skilled in drone operation and is actually a soldier but works remotely from the ‘field of action’. Another example is a global healthcare chain that has a specialists located in different parts of the world; a heart surgeon working from India can then perform an operation on a patient in South America, using a complex robot that they control to successfully perform the surgery (Pomerleau and Pomerleau, 2017).

Why do companies use remote intelligence?

 Companies using remote intelligence may have the workers working from an office in a normal work environment and are highly skilled persons, rather than semi-skilled workers working from home, doing tasks such as filling out forms or entering data.  The companies using remote intelligence save costs and attain efficiency; a hotel worker in Europe earns about $ 2100 a month, a similar worker in India earns about $ 300; the cleaning company can invest in a cleaning robot that the remote worker based in India operates, at a higher wage of say $ 1000 a month, saving $ 13200 a year.  A company can outsource or hire an accountant in South Africa whose labor cost is one third that of the same accountant in the UK, despite, say having similar qualifications and experience (Shorrock, 2009). For this reason, remote intelligence and the firms that use them are markedly different from telecommuting; the firms can also outsource services or even manufacturing to high skilled, low wage workers: the example of China’s manufacturing for global brands is a good example.

Much of the present work culture is characterized by expensive wage earners working from expensive glitzy offices in expensive cities. This approach makes a lot of sense from a business point of view since a lot of services cannot be produced without face to face presence and interaction among workers (Baldwin, 2017).  Having all team embers when making a presentation with a short deadline enhances success and productivity, hence face to face collaboration and cooperation makes sense.  Remote intelligence works on the premise of someone located miles away, with the right skills, able to perform a task efficiently and much cheaply than having the same work done by a local employee (Dixon, 2017). It can mean a remote surgeon operating on a patient using a robot over the internet and using telecommunication and internet technologies to ‘see’ what they are doing as though they were in the operating room (Eveleth, 2014).

Remote intelligence can mean a company outsourcing some manufacturing to a remote company, or doing assembly in a remote location where workers are highly skilled and charge much less wages; this makes even more sense if the finished products are intended for sale in those remote locations. The advent of technology and reduction in language barriers mean that the traditional barriers to people working productively which are language, skills, and location have been greatly reduced.  The quality of video and voice is greatly improving, thanks to technology. With technology getting cheaper and ubiquitous, as well as being mobile, it will be possible to have project teams collaborate from different locations around the world in real time. This will result in fewer expensive employees having to be assembled in expensive buildings in expensive cities (Turner, 2010).  These developments are slowly but surely heralding tele migration or virtual offshoring in the labor market. Remote intelligence will enable (is already doing so) unbundling of labor services from laborers and delivering them internationally.

Merits and demerits of remote intelligence

Traditionally, there is a big gap in wages between the North and South for professionals such as engineers, accountants, designers, publishers, lawyers, and even doctors. With technology and the internet, as well as advances in robotics, this is about to change and it will see companies use equally skilled but lower wage professionals in remote locales to become more efficient and lower costs, while being able to get new insights and ideas from cultural diversity that remote intelligence offers (Baldwin, 2017).  Technologies such as Building Information management (BIM) allow various professionals to collaborate on a building project in real time, such that an architect from Philippines can work with a civil engineer in Brazil, a mechanical engineer in China, and interior designer in Morocco and successfully complete a building project in Wales at a much lower cost and much faster and efficiently. Yes, there is every reason for traditional professionals and employees in Western countries to be very worried about remote intelligence (Baldwin, 2017). It is going to be even more disruptive than the more considered Artificial Intelligence.  In education, even Western Universities have cause for worry; acquiring a university degree has become way too expensive; with the need to seek accommodation, acquire visa, and pay fees and tuition, as well as living expenses. With remote intelligence, Academic services providers can take advantage of technology such as the internet to offer real time lessons to remotely located students in real time, with complete team participation at a much lower cost. Already, many companies are using this model to lower costs and increase efficiency but outsourcing manufacture of some components or even services such as design to remote low cost locales and are reaping benefits.  It will be a very big shock to Western professionals ring fenced by geography and politics and low wage laborers in third world countries with not much to do with their skills; remote intelligence is going to redistribute skills and work, and have a major disruptive effect, especially on wages and efficiency as well as how companies conduct business (Mignone et al., 2016).

Remote intelligence already raises a lot of ethical issues; a drone operator in Pakistan operating a killer drone over Afghanistan means that the ethics of war are not observed; a fighter in Afghanistan has no chance to face their opponents in a battle filed, instead, they remain sitting ducks that can be struck any tine, sometimes accidentally so that innocent people and children end up dead. The operator of the drone can project their power without projecting vulnerability, key aspects of any rational conflict or combat (Deptula, 2013).  Because of labor cost savings, another ethical issue arises; firms are ever seeking to maximize their profits and returns to shareholders; using remote intelligence with low cost labor where they pay a third of what they would pay locally for the same work also raises serious ethical issues. It implies using people for greater gain, and knowingly paying less; this aspect however, has a thin line in the context of ethics. Another ethical issue is sociological, what to do with highly skilled but expensive professionals found locally, that paid through the nose for their education and rely on their present job to feed their families and run their economies (Deptula, 2013).

Ethics of remote intelligence

Remote intelligence has massive benefits for both corporations and people with skills but without jobs and their economies. For companies, remote intelligence provides then an opportunity to attain high levels of efficiency and drastically lower costs by using equally (or even better skilled) employees to perform tasks on demand at a fraction of the cost. For a global healthcare provider with specialists spread across the world, they can gain from 24 hour operations since a surgeon in Malaysia can perform a delicate operation on a patient in the US using tele Robotics in the dead of the night, when the US surgeon is unavailable, or even on leave (Loubier, 2017). Further, firms can attain 24 hour operations, with skilled workers from different locations around the world working on projects and tasks at any given time due to geographic and time differences. For a manufacturer or apparel producer, workers can be working in Asia while those in South America are asleep.  The approach leverages robotics and human intelligence; human judgment is much better than that of machines and so the result is higher efficiency work. For workers, especially those in low income countries, this presents a wonderful opportunity not only to earn more, but to greatly enhance their skills and be more productive. For host economies, the concept of remote intelligence will greatly improve their economies. For clients, the result is high quality products at more affordable prices, if firms pass on the cost savings gained from using remote intelligence to consumers. It also expands the talent pool for companies and benefits the environment.

It still lacks the ‘personal’ touch so essential in service sector delivery, such as sales and marketing.  Remote intelligence means workers have limited interaction with others or the ability to use other skills, resulting in low internal motivation for their jobs, while also removing the valuable aspect of trust generated from face to face interactions. Lack of coworker engagement and pressure to perform can result in lower job engagement (Juan, 2012).

Managers will be working with virtual teams in remote locations with different worth ethics, culture, and even social and religious values.  This is because these leaders will have their leadership mediated via technology especially because research shows satisfaction among virtual workers fluctuates wildly, for instance, due to a sense of isolation as there is no face to face contact. As such, the concept of remote intelligence requires motivational leaders that can keep others motivated. They need leaders that let the teams do their work and involve them in decision making. These leaders need excellent communication skills, team building skills, and have cultural and social awareness to deal with barriers.  Such leaders need excellent skills in task delegation and working with autonomous teams (Dennis, Meola, & Hall, 2018).

References

Baldwin, R. (2017). Forget A.I. 'Remote Intelligence' Will Be Much More Disruptive. [online] HuffPost. Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/telerobotics_us_5873bb48e4b02b5f858a1579 [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Boisot, M. and Meyer, M. (2008). Which Way through the Open Door? Reflections on the Internationalization of Chinese Firms. Management and Organization Review, 4(03), pp.349-365.

de Haas, H. (2008). The Myth of Invasion: the inconvenient realities of African migration to Europe. Third World Quarterly, 29(7), pp.1305-1322.

Dennis, D., Meola, D. and Hall, M. (2018). Effective Leadership in a Virtual Workforce. [online] Main. Available at: https://www.td.org/magazines/td-magazine/effective-leadership-in-a-virtual-workforce [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Deptula, D. (2013). Remotely Operated Air Power: Implications for Ethics, Policy and Strategy. [online] Ausairpower.net. Available at: https://www.ausairpower.net/APA-EMEAC-2013-01.html [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Dixon, N. (2017). The organizational learning cycle. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Eveleth, R. (2014). The surgeon who operates from 400km away. [online] Bbc.com. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140516-i-operate-on-people-400km-away [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Fell, S. (2014). Why Are Companies Still Avoiding Telecommuting?. [online] Entrepreneur. Available at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240189 [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Gajendran, R. and Harrison, D. (2007). The good, the bad, and the unknown about telecommuting: Meta-analysis of psychological mediators and individual consequences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(6), pp.1524-1541.

Juan, A. (2012). Collaborative and distributed E-research. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

Mignone, G., Hosseini, M., Chileshe, N. and Arashpour, M. (2016). Enhancing collaboration in BIM-based construction networks through organisational discontinuity theory: a case study of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. Architectural Engineering and Design Management, 12(5), pp.333-352.

Pomerleau, M. and Pomerleau, M. (2017). The Army is testing if it wants to operate combat drones remotely. [online] C4ISRNET. Available at: https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/uas/2017/12/14/the-army-is-testing-if-it-wants-to-operate-combat-drones-remotely/ [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Reaney, P. (2012). About one in five workers worldwide telecommute: poll. [online] Reuters. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-telecommuting/about-one-in-five-workers-worldwide-telecommute-poll-idUSTRE80N1IL20120125 [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Reynolds, B. (2017). 8 New Stats About Working from Home - FlexJobs. [online] FlexJobs. Available at: https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/8-interesting-stats-about-working-from-home/ [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Salvalaggio, M. (2018). Remote Intelligence: Will It Become a Threat to All Western Workers?. [online] The Market Mogul. Available at: https://themarketmogul.com/remote-intelligence-threat/ [Accessed 24 May 2018].

Siha, S. and Monroe, R. (2006). Telecommuting's past and future: a literature review and research agenda. Business Process Management Journal, 12(4), pp.455-482.

Shorrock, T. (2009). Spies for hire. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Turner, B. (2010). The Routledge international handbook of globalization studies. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Tyrväinen, P. (2016). Change in Human Technology's Publisher: Continued Focus on Open Access Human-Technology Research. Human Technology, 12(2), pp.103-104.

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