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CTO of Estonia: The role of tech is to automate routines, so we can use the time saved for what is really important

Kristo Vaher, CTO of Estonia, discusses the fear of robots and finds that no matter how insecure we feel about the future, robots are here to give us more quality time for ourselves.

Kristo Vaher: One of my main messages has always been that the most important role of technology is to automate all kinds of routines, so we can use the time saved for what is really important – whether that’s spending more time with family and friends, doing something creative or even just spending hours idling.

Technology – robots, artificial intelligence and automation – allows us to do more with less. Estonia is a small country with a big heart and a will to be bigger than what our population and land from the tip of Sõrve Cape to Narva allow. Technology can help us become bigger, more significant and successful in the bigger picture as well as in everyday life and work.

The fear of robots as such is completely understandable to me and it definitely exists here as well, but I am convinced that it is a fear of change and the unknown rather than robots and technology themselves. There are definitely technologies and solutions which have a negative impact and there is a lot we can say about them, but at the same time most of what technology has brought to the life of Estonians has given us all time and convenience which are hard to let go – because it has given us a chance to actually live more and be something greater.

How it will influence the jobs and work relations of humans is really no different from earlier scientific, industrial and economic breakthroughs, not only in Estonia but in the whole world, where the ambition has always been to make more time. Having recently spent some days in Lübeck digging at the history and origins of the Hanseatic League, the most important priority back then was the optimisation of economy and trade in order to gain time and a higher quality of life, and that was exactly because regardless of the nature of the changes, the goal of any change was to give every person more time in life and to reduce the need to do everything yourself.

Modern and future technology and robots ultimately serve the same purpose. Yes, that does mean that robots can replace routine manual labour in certain fields, but it opens up the opportunity to direct the newly available time and attention towards activities and fields which bring more value and require outside-the-box thinking which every Estonian is more capable of than a robot. An important part of all of this is definitely retraining, opportunities for easier access to new kinds of education and self-development, leading to new challenges which we never might have considered while we were caught up in our old routines. In many other countries the fear of robots is greater than here – that shows that perhaps Estonians have a better sense of the value of our time.

To finish off, I would like to quote the philosopher Michel de Montaigne who 500 years ago said, “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” Meaning that we often worry about things that end up not turning out how we expected at all. Robots and technology will bring us to a future where we can spend more time with our family and friends, follow creative pursuits or even just spend our free hours idling.

Read more why Estonian tech entrepreneurs Taavi Rõivas and Alan Adojaan and robot builder trainer Laido Valdvee are convinced that robots don’t take jobs away from humans, they create new ones.

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