January 14, 2015
Robots! They’re Taking Over…Your Job?
Growing up, you probably heard talk of how the impending robot apocalypse would not only destroy the planet but, worse still, would take all of our jobs. Of course, by now we know that is just a fantasy: If anything, the robot army of the future will create more jobs, as they will need human slaves to change their oil and tighten their bolts!
On a more serious note, however, it seems that the future of robotics in the workplace has arrived, and as technology continues to grow and evolve and manufacturing costs decrease, we can expect robotic employees to make a big impact on the future workplace and, indeed, the world as a whole.
Even today, the world of robot workers has integrated itself into our everyday lives, melting into the background as though they were a natural part of the environment. For years, they have worked autonomously and facelessly in auto manufacturing and industrial plants, helping to ramp up productivity and output for an ever-growing consumer need.
In countries such as China and Japan, arguably the future of the robotics industry, robot employment takes on a more personal role. It is not uncommon in the region to place a food order at a restaurant with a robot waiter or have your food brought to the table by one. If you are ever visiting one of these countries and find yourself in need of medical attention (perhaps from the food one of the robot waiters brought you!), do not be shocked if the friendly receptionist at the hospital looks like a friendlier version of RoboCop, as some hospitals are now using robots for this very purpose.
While many members of the previous generations pooh-pooh the idea of robot employees (usually citing issues with workplace safety or a lack of jobs for humans), there are many benefits to a robotic workforce, particularly for countries with high life expectancy rates and an ever-aging population.
Even the aforementioned "issues" are debatable. For one, robots, and machines in general, tend to work in precise and predictable ways, which can lower the number of workplace accidents. In addition, having a machine lift heavy objects reduces the amount of physical stress a human counterpart would have to endure and prevents injuries on the job.
As for the old fear that robots might take away human jobs, there is some validity to this argument, though as with any technology, as old positions are phased out, new jobs will be created. Looking to the future, programming, embedded systems, robotic engineering, and even maintenance jobs will continue to become more valuable as robots become more and more a part of modern society.
One example of this can be seen in Lowe"s innovative OSHBots, a new idea out of Lowe"s Innovation Labs, which will see retail outlets populated with robot "helpers" designed to roam the aisles and answer questions for customers and assist them in locating items or answer pricing questions. While these customer service droids may eliminate a few jobs, more likely than not, they will free up existing employees to work in other areas, such as stocking shelves or other retail duties. In addition, the deployment of this technology will create new, higher-paying jobs, as someone will need to maintain and perform upkeep on the technology.