Will Human Jobs be replaced by Robots in the Future?
The eventual replacement of humans by robots is a question that sparks numerous philosophical and existential questions concerning what it means to be human. If we create intelligent robots, would we eventually be replaced by them or would we simply become more efficient with their help? If humans are so easy to replace with robots, then are we just machines?
But for now, let’s put philosophy aside and explore popular opinion on how and where robots will replace humans in future. It is not a question of if, as it is definitely happening.
Now, before we proceed, it is important to understand that when we say “robots”, we are not limiting ourselves to humanoid figures with limbs and artificial intelligence (the kind that will eventually hunt Sarah Connor), but any machine that can carry out assigned tasks without the need for supervision – like traffic lights, only much more smarter.
When we use the word “smart” in this article, we are referring to functioning artificial intelligence (Note: access to Instagram does not count as any kind of intelligence, artificial or otherwise!). Take any popular study in robotics and you’ll find that with every improvement, robots are getting closer and closer to replacing human beings in some capacity – so it isn’t some implausible fantasy, a robot uprising is in the works…
More than a decade ago, Stephen Hawking, an acclaimed scientist and writer, ignited the debate over genetic engineering by recommending that humans change their DNA through genetic modification to keep ahead of advances in computer technology and stop intelligent machines from “taking over the world”. Technology is advancing and growing exponentially; existing technology is being used to create new technology and there really isn’t an end in sight. Just to understand how far we have come, Google something from 2005 about technology and compare their greatest achievement to ours. Back then robots were popular in movies, games and TV shows, but now they are on their way to becoming as important a part of our lives as a toaster!
There are two questions that come to mind when approaching this discussion. Let’s break each question down individually.
Should robots be allowed to replace humans?
Image credit: foxaon / 123RF Stock Photo
Even though the instinctive response is usually a resounding NO, let us explore what advantages robots give us:
There are robots designed specifically for rescue operations. They are not complex enough to do actual mining as yet, but as far as rescue operations go, this idea seems promising. Cave Crawler is a self-contained robot designed to learn as it goes. It has the ability to detect the presence of dangerous gases and navigate places that human cannot, making it essential for mining operations.
Other notable examples are:
Robots for deep sea exploration – these can be sent to explore deep sea volcanic activity, something humans have not even considered studying on their own.
Industrial robots – can perform a repetitive mechanical task without sacrificing quality, like the assembly line, manufacturing etc. Even though we use the word “industry”, food service companies also come under this heading.
Up to 2010, 1.2 million robots were in function, making it one robot to every 5,000 people. Projections suggest that by the year 2025, robots will have claimed a total of 13 million jobs in automotive industry, 22 million jobs in manufacturing and 9 million jobs in food services.
On the positive side, this paradigm shift offers the opportunity, that with the growing popularity of robots in production, it is inevitable that people will find work in some other capacities that will exist outside of robotics. May be the arts will become the new go-to industry.
What jobs are robots inept at?
Image credit: rainerplendl / 123RF Stock Photo
This includes any and all creative undertakings, including art (painting, drawing, film) literature, music, etc. Robots are designed for precision, but art is not a precise field. The best we can teach a robot is a few tricks like we would a dog. In fact the dog would be more efficient as animals can process reward and punishment. Robots can only process 1s and 0s.
Simply put, robots do not have real emotions. Without real emotions, they cannot possibly attempt to solve problems of the human mind. Even dogs can sense emotional disturbance but not robots.
Robots can only process information and pick an approach based on that information. While robots may be able to identify every complication, they will not be able to present a valid diagnosis; it requires expertise to know which result is relevant and which is not.
Engineers and entrepreneurs
Those robots are not going to design and assemble themselves, not with the kind of intelligence they have (or will have). Even if robots managed to build themselves, who is to say they will do a good job at it? At best they can improve the way they do things; innovation is not really a possibility, in my opinion. As far as entrepreneurship is concerned, since robots do not require financial and motivational compensation, they will not really have a need to develop a unique business plan.
Practically speaking, robots growing to the point that they take over the world and then start creating smarter, better robots are impractical and should not even be a concern. None of this is expected in the near future, not by a long shot. If you’ve been to an ATM, waited for a PC to boot up after a catastrophic failure, or had a game crash on your Xbox just when you were about to reach a checkpoint, you understand that we are not in a world where machines do everything perfectly right. Before they can take over all of our jobs, they need to be able to do theirs’ flawlessly; until then, we can depend on humans to mess up our lives.
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