Should We Be Afraid Of Robot Laborers?

A recent study by the Pew Research Center asked about 1900 scientists whether robots will create jobs for human workers or will they take away more jobs than they make by 2025. The results are evenly split, where 52% think robots will be creating jobs while 48% claim robots will take away jobs. It is inevitable that robots will be the future of automation for various types of goods all around the world. Robots are already building our cars, why not other things? Their artificial intelligence (AI) and design grows more advanced by the year, allowing them to do complex and precise tasks that humans may not be able to do. Imagine, factories, filled with robots, all running by themselves with minimal human interaction. However, a question still haunts this vision of the future. Will robots solve problems, or will they create more problems than they fix?

Robots will solve more problems than they create. They are more precise than humans, allowing fewer errors to occur, as opposed to the clumsy human hand. For example, the microsurgery robot used to repair blood vessels or nerve fibers can perform without shaking and is five times more precise than the human hand, where before only a select few humans can do the same task. They are able to process information faster and in greater quantities than humans, shown in our Internet search engines, like Google or Bing. The only question that remain is how we can better build and program that robot to fit the job it is created for. One example that will happen in the near future is the driverless car. These cars prevent accidents by paying attention to the road for you, which help prevent accidents by removing human error from our streets, and thus making it safer for other cars and pedestrians. They also “make it possible for seniors and people with disabilities to get around more easily” by driving for them.

In relation to jobs, experts state that robots will replace jobs, but will also create new jobs in their place. Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, stated, “Historically, technology has created more jobs than it destroys and there is no reason to think otherwise in this case. Someone has to make and service all these advanced devices.” It is like in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (spoiler alert) when Charlie’s father lost his job to an automatic robot, but was rehired later to service and maintain the same robot.

Experts also predict that robots can boost productivity, cut the costs of goods, create “new types of work requiring uniquely human capabilities,” and “allows people to define work in a more positive and socially beneficial way” by freeing them from “day-to-day drudgery.” More production and lower costs mean goods can be made faster and cheaper, lowering their price in stores for human consumption. Robots may open jobs that require unique human abilities, such as maintenance of that robot or programming new robots that can do different tasks. By viewing work more positively and socially beneficial way, it engages people to find work. Most work would no longer be “boring” or “a burden” because those types of jobs will be occupied by robots. Humans can instead focus more on creating content, such as art, Internet videos, movies, television shows, fictional stories, video games, etc. As Amy Webb, CEO of strategy firm Webbmedia Group, puts it, “the collar of the future is a hoodie.”

Some experts also claim that robots will have a negative effect on society by taking away more jobs than they create. “As Howard Rheingold, an educator and Internet sociologist noted, ‘only the best-educated humans will compete with machines. And education systems in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world are still sitting students in rows and columns, teaching them to keep quiet and memorize what is told them, preparing them for life in a 20th century factory.’” Tom Standage, digital editor for The Economist, added, “robots and AI are likely to transform certain occupations much more quickly than previous waves of innovation. That’s likely to heighten economic inequality by widening the gap between more skilled employees whose jobs are harder to automate and people in more routine kinds of work, pushing many into lower-paid service jobs. ‘This is a recipe for instability.’” Jerry Michalski, founder of the think tank REX, also states that “Automation is Voldemort: the terrifying force nobody is willing to name. We hardly dwell on the fact that someone trying to pick a career path that is not likely to be automated will have a very hard time making that choice.” Despite these claims, society has shown they are able to accommodate for new technologies. From the invention of the telephone, to having nearly everyone in the world own a phone in their home, to having a portable phone, to finally having a phone that is also your computer and music player, society has adjusted to accommodate for each change. There is no reason why society can’t do the same for the change that robots will bring. If we are questioning how will robot workers affect society in the near future, we should be able to prepare for the change, like by updating the focus of schools to help prep students to program or construct robots. These robots may not even necessarily kill off jobs completely. Using self-driving cars as an example, CBS News also states that the “fleets of self-driving cars that seem all but certain to flood our roadways may not necessarily put a taxi driver out of a job.” Even Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, explains that “an app can dial Mom’s number and even send flowers, but an app can’t do that most human of all things: emotionally connect with her,” meaning jobs that require human emotion will still be available long after robots are working for us.

People may question what if robots become so advanced that they don’t need maintenance from humans. This is currently impossible because at this moment and in the near future, robots are only programmed to do a set of tasks and nothing else. Humans need to make decisions that are not related to the robots’ tasks simply because the robots are not programmed make those decisions. It is possible to program the robots to fix many situations themselves, but it is impossible to account for every single possible event that may happen to the robots. This will not be an issue if robots start acting like humans, but that is also impossible to do because there are many factors that go into making a human intelligence. We do not have the technology or innovation to create such robots and it will be a long time before we do.

Some may also show concern about what happens if the robots can be hacked. The recent scare from the Russian gang and their success in hacking multiple websites for their user information may leave people wondering what happens if someone or some group did it with robots. Will it be like the movie “Terminator,” where robots start destroying everything? There is always that possibility, but that will only happen with improperly programmed software. Good programs are usually encrypted to make them secure and less prone to be hacked. It is typically hard to decrypt a program unless you have the original algorithm that encrypted it. If robots did not have encrypted software, they will surely not meet safety standards and will not be placed in a situation where it can be hacked and potentially hurt people.

Robots are our future. They are created to make our lives easier and less stressful. While they may take away a few jobs, they will create new ones in their place. By working potentially dangerous jobs, they make life safer and more efficient for all of mankind. Humans can then focus on doing things they enjoy instead of working repetitive or menial jobs, because robots will be doing that instead. As long as we follow the Three Laws of Robotics when programming the robots, we should be fine.

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Will Robots Help Or Hurt The Job Market?

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2 Comments to “Should We Be Afraid Of Robot Laborers?”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this as I am also an advocate to implementing robots into the working world. I strongly agree that it is inevitable that robots will be taking over human jobs, for a better cause. For instance, when you mentioned driveless operation of motor vehicles. One of the concerns that this article raised to me was what happens when a robot makes an inaccurate or illogical decision of operation? An innocent accident? Do humans then completely ban those types of robots because we expected it to work 100 percent as programmed by a human? Though, if a human made some mistake, there would be measures taken to investigate the justice needed and other humans would be allowed to continue driving. I just don’t want one faulty robot to ruin it all for every other robot with great potential. I like the line “robots are the future” because we as humans are the future, and I believe robots are merely just a representation of the human mind in physical form. Look how great of things we can do by controlling precision with our minds through the operation of a robot. Medically, this is exceptional. As long as we have great intentions and keep an open mind, I think there would be no issue with working alongside robots. Great read.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article, as I find this robot argument very interesting! I agree with you in that robots will definitely create jobs than take away. The only people I am concerned about are the blue-collar workers that will have their jobs replaced by robots. These people may not have gotten a very good education, leaving them unqualified for other jobs. In the (very good) example you gave about Charlie’s father, he was able to service the robots when they broke, but what if there are other people who are more qualified (like know how to repair machines) who sweep those jobs up. I feel like this would only affect the people currently working those jobs, once robotic technology becomes more commonly used, people will probably go to school with their focus circulating around these robots so they don’t risk the possibility of losing their job to one.

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