The Brighter Side of Robots in the Workforce
In this commentary on the brighter side of robots, Chris (Christian) Tur examines the many positives of robots in industry today.
Positives of robots in industry today.
In case you didn’t know where you were, please allow me to welcome you to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Even when you consider the first three revolutions (the transition to machine production and factories in 1784; the transition to mass production in 1890; the “digital revolution” in 1969 that led to computers, cell phones and the Internet) nothing compares to what humankind is now experiencing. Advances in Artificial Intelligence, the Internet-of-Things, automation, nanotechnology, 3D printing, biotech and more are converging to quickly usher in more change in a shorter amount of time than has ever been felt in our history – and there will be consequences.
Indeed, the web is littered with doomsday forecasts about an upcoming robot apocalypse. The levels of hysteria have risen to the point that we now have a Robot Fear Index. Some of this is not without reason: as it has done in the past, technology will displace jobs in the near future. But far too little attention is being paid to the positive aspects of smart bots and the impact this will have upon our workforce.
As thought leaders within our industries, let’s invest some effort to envision the welcome improvements to production, the job creation, and the enhanced problem solving that will occur during the Golden Age of Robotics.
Robots Should Continue to Displace Bad (and Unwanted) Jobs
Consider the ways robots can help workers contribute to finished-goods production. Humans don’t want to work in dirty, hot, or dangerous environments, but robots can (and do). We don’t want to work for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – but robots don’t care about a work-life balance. Cobots (collaborative robots) will relieve the monotony, the repetitive tasks and the non-value-add processes that we currently must contend with. And when constant worker turnover puts businesses at risk, robots can save a company by providing consistent, reliable services.
Robots Will Create New Jobs
Take this one step further: Imagine the entirely new roles that will exist in the workforce in just 10 or 20 short years.
To be fair, this isn’t easy. Who among us could have 5, 10, 20 years ago predicted jobs like Vision System Integration Engineer, Mobile App Developer, or Big Data Analyst? But we can try to connect the dots by looking at upward trends in industries like software engineering, information security, data transmission and more.
Combine that with the anticipated value that will be placed on human creativity, and you may start to think of some interesting things: Maybe doctors will need neural-network engineers to meld robotic prostheses to subcutaneous bio-connectors? Perhaps CAFÉ-X will become as ubiquitous as your local Starbucks, and your (former) barista will instead devote his/her time to developing local coffee blends tailored to each “hip” neighbourhood’s preferences? Maybe hotels and fast food companies will need education professionals to “coach” service robots when interacting with guests?
Robots, AI and the Internet of Things Will Solve Big Problems
As we usher in this new era, let’s also consider how remarkable advances in technology will soon provide unprecedented tools to solve the world’s problems.
For instance, how will we employ automation to solve the world’s upcoming labour shortage? As Baby Boomers retire from the workforce, 80% of the top 15 economies will experience labour shortfalls by 2030. Eighty-per cent! To some analysts, technology would seem to make this challenge even harder to overcome by creating a demand for high-skilled workers when there aren’t enough to go around. But, another perspective could be that advances in robotics and automation will actually boost overall productivity and add value to the economy.
Just a few ways robots will help:
Nobel Laureate J. Fraser Stoddart’s work in mechanical bonding will lead chemists, coatings engineers, camouflage developers and biomedical engineers to develop nanobots that perform work at the atomic level.
Industrial automation adoption in mining, heavy-industry and oil and gas applications will improve safety, output and yield.
Autonomous vehicles will make supply chains leaner.
Robotic suits and prostheses will allow older or disabled people join (or rejoin) the workforce.
Microbots will perform functions formerly served by surgeons. (Maybe a swarm of them could even deliver targeted chemotherapeutic drugs into the complex architecture of a solid tumor?)
Agribots will relieve seasonal worker shortfalls, and move jobs formerly relegated to field work into more enriching and fulfilling jobs involving packaging, compliance, and food-safety related activities.
What jobs will be created in your field?
With an uncertain future at hand, leading thinkers and business minds must shed their discomfort and offer up a vision for how people will work as AI, autonomous machines and the Internet of Things change the workforce – for the better.
To my colleagues in the fields of Robotics, AI, and Big Data:
What jobs will be created in your industry’s short-term future?
Let’s work together to replace the “Robot Fear Index” with a “Robot Optimism Index (ROI)” – it resonates on multiple levels, and conveys a brighter perspective about our future.
Caption: (first pix no caption)
The Phoenix exoskeleton developed by SuitX, an American start-up is claimed to be the world's lightest and most advanced exoskeleton.
Chris Tur’s career has largely followed a technology-driven path. From biomedical engineering, to naval aviation, to energy and now robotics, he lives on the front edge of innovation and continuously challenges the status-quo. Of notable accomplishments throughout his career, Chris has been credited for leadership and combat performance with the US Navy, was a key leader on the development team of world’s fastest passenger ferry while with General Electric, holds more than 10 patents in the field of Robotics, and was recruited by TEDx to deliver a compelling talk on the future of automation. Today, Chris is the innovative mind behind the automation industry’s leading edge corporations of Roboworld, LLC, and Roboworld Molded Products, LLC dba, Pendant Armor.