We are living in an exciting technological time, with the evolution of robotics today what the internet was 20 years ago. A big reason for this is that “cloud robotics has taken the traditional development model for robots, what we historically might have thought was necessary in terms of hardware and software in-unit, and radically transformed that.” What we are talking about is industrial robotics: artificial intelligence that can perform tasks such as pick and place, assembly, painting, welding, product inspection, etc. These robots are in general thought to be articulate and capable of accomplishing tasks with high endurance, speed, and precision.
As collaboration with robots in the workforce becomes more the norm, here’s what you can expect to see in society:
1. How robots effectively work is a burgeoning reality, but not without its hiccups. Let’s take the trend in China of artificial intelligence servers for instance: recently, robot waiters in Guangzhou, China were fired for being too ‘clumsy’ for knocking things over and dropping things. While some mechanical servers, like Tete, a robot in Qingdao, China, can communicate over 200 words and have “no trouble delivering dishes,” others not so much. These two comparisons remind us that, like humans, the skills of robots are predestined by their genetic makeup and expectedly, that is going to vary. These events suggest artificial intelligence may not be quite as advanced as we thought, at least not yet anyway – but nonetheless inevitable.
2. The robot revolution will effect countries differently and it certainly won’t be equal. Different countries will reap more benefits than others. It is thought that Japan, South Korea, and Germany are best positioned to adapt to the robot shift. The U.S.A. and China are also a part of the list of countries that are more likely to be a part of the core group of countries that stand to gain more robotics in their workforce per capita. A lot of this depends on how well and quickly countries can adapt to big industrial changes like this.
3. There will be cultural differences. Westerners tend to be more worried about robots and the risks associated they could potentially bring about. Whereas, East Asian cultures are less hostile toward artificial intelligence and robotics due to what some contribute as the belief in animism. Basically, the East does not have the cultural baggage regarding robots the West seems to have. For instance, in the U.S. it is common to resent a robot for doing what is thought to be a human’s job, such as skilled labor or teaching. While in East Asia, it would not only be a non-issue, but perhaps seen as an advantage.
4. Our current models of labor will be challenged. Semi-skilled labor can now be performed by robotic labor. This is an issue of course because it is seen as taking jobs away from humans. In the U.S., we have a relatively high labor market and in the last couple of decades most displaced labor has been blue collar. The introduction to robots will be great for the wealthy and people working within the fields of robotics and engineering, but for people with working-class repetitive-type jobs it is going to create a lot of displaced workers.
5. There will most likely be major socioeconomic consequences. Job layoffs are guaranteed due to the labor pattern change. The question is, what will happen to those displaced workers? What will their new job prospects be? Moreover, when workers feel a deep sense of unfairness and anxiety over their economic situations, there is bound to be backlash. Civil unrest and protests could result as a retaliation against robots “taking” human jobs.
So, how are we to prepare for this new robotic future in much of the workforce?
With any major industrial shift, there is going to be a transition period until society and culture catches up – this can be eased however if we prepare ourselves. Investing in areas like vocational education and community college is a great start, with the potential to serve millions of Americans – especially those who are more vulnerable to lose jobs to industrial robots. It is critical to the strength of the economy and its future workforce to adapt to these technological changes accordingly.
Connect with us