Robots Taking Your Job

Robot

Don’t get too comfortable in your job.

Yes, the economic realities of high spending are about to catch up with the country and that will threaten your livelihood, but even more than that Robots can probably do your job better than you–sooner or later. 

Wired Magazine (24 December 2012) has a great article on this called “Better Than Humans.

In the 1800’s, when 70% of the working population did agricultural work, probably no one would have believed what the future had in store for this occupation–today with automation, only 1% do this work.

Similarly, today 80% of jobs are in the service sector, and people think they are on safe ground–but think again!

Make no mistake robots will replace or drastically alter your current job, as artificial intelligence, processors, memory, sensors, learning, communication, dexterity, and humanoid likeness all continue to advance.

Wired presents the 7 Stages of Robot Replacement (to which I’ve added my notes in parenthesis):

1. Robots cannot do what I do (denial).

2. Robots can do some of what I do, but not all (partial acceptance).

3. Robots can do what I do, but they break done (rationalization for the loss, and so do we “break down”).

4. Robots operate flawlessly on repetitive tasks, but need training for new ones (you weren’t born knowing everything were you?). 

5. Robots can have my old job, because it’s not fit for humans anyway (acceptance with a large dose of resignation–“the train has left the station”).

6. Robots can have my old job, because my new job will be better (maybe for the time being). 

7. Robots cannot do what I do now (the cycle of employment safety from automation starts anew). 

Let’s face it–your special, but so is technology and the pace of advancement is extraordinary. 

For those of you in jobs that you feel could only be done by humans–Wired has some news about developments with robots doing the once unthinkable:

– Musicians–Georgia Tech has developed Shimon the musician; these robots can not only play violin and trumpets, but they can form a band, and they can improvise (“as if it’s a musician with a soul!).

– Therapists–Mindmentor has an AI therapist that after a 1-2 hour session made patients feel their “problem was 47% solved.”

– Artists–Vagobot has made hundreds of pictures and “even sold some to Crate & Barrel.”

– Comedians–Aldebarab Robotics makes robots for all sorts of jobs, including entertainment–they can sense audience reaction (such as laughter or silence) and adjust topics accordingly.

– Professional Trainers–The Intermational Conference on Social Robots in 2011 presented a robot that could coach you on your exercise, sense your form, and correct it. 

– Teachers–University Of Southern California has developed a robot teacher that in 2 weeks helped preschoolers increase vocabulary mastery by 25%.

– Nurses–Aethon makes the TUG nurse robot that is “picking up and delivering medication and supplies, autonomously navigating hospital hallways…summon an elevator, wait in line, and politely roll aside to give hemorrhaging humans priority access.”

– Athletes–Robocup compete robots that one day can be “capable of winning against the human  soccer World Cup champions.

So what will be left for humans to do–innovate, invent, build, operate, and maintain the next level of breakthrough automation to help people–maybe these are the best and most-rewarding jobs that any of us can hope to have. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal, Ft. Lauderdale Discovery and Science Museum)

Escaping From A Submerged Vehicle Gets Easier

Of all things, here’s an innovation to the seat belt. 

In the movies, we’ve all seen cars plunging into the water and submerging with people trapped inside. 

Wired Magazine (11 December 2012) reported on a new escape belt that helps people get out of the vehicles and to safety. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administation, almost 400 people die a year from car accidents that result in accidental drowning. 

Now Dutch company, Fijen TMLS has developed a seat-belt that releases when water goes in the interior and dissolves a salt pill in the latch. 

The mechanism costs as little as $40 and according to the company’s website can “be assembled on all seatbelt releasers in just a few simple steps.”

From the pictures of the assembly instructions, I am not sure it is quite so easy. 

Also, it is unclear how long the device is good for, since on one hand, their website states that the “Escape Belt lasts 6 months” and on other hand that “the cartridge will need to replaced after 2 years.”

In any case, I think the idea is a good one as long as the belt remains secure when not submerged and will not release accidentally with any simple spill or splash. 😉

The Irreplaceables

Traditionally, people like to invest in things that they feel are “irreplaceable” (or priceless to them)…that unique outfit, that piece of Jewelry (gold is in vogue again at $1900 an ounce), that one-of-a-kind art work, that special home-sweet-home (i.e. not cookie-cutter), and most importantly that special relationship (i.e. people are truly irreplaceable and they are an investment not of money, but of our heart and soul!).

In fact, when we spend our hard-earned money, only to see something break down after a relatively short period of time, we feel upset, angry, almost betrayed–like we got taken by the salesperson or manufacturer.
Years ago, engineers actually made things with “planned obsolescence”–that is built to break down after a certain period of time (i.e. “designed for the dump”)–usually coinciding with the end of the period of warranty, so that consumers would be forced to open their wallets again and feed the giant sales apparatus, called our economy.
Yet, in the age of information technology and consumer electronics, while we don’t want to see things break down, we do want a fast replacement cycle on them–since the technology and features are changing so quickly.
The Atlantic (September 2011) has an interesting article about this called Replacement Therapy–describing the trend of consumers of technology who actually cheer on the death of their gadgets, so that they don’t feel so guilty and wasteful buying the newest models with the latest features every 18 months or so.
According to the author, many of us have “turned into serial replacers” of technology–so that the twist is that it’s no longer “our devices that wear thin, [but rather] it’s our patience with them.”
This is Moore’s Law at it’s extreme–where the speed of technological progress make our most recent IT purchase practically obsolete by the time we plug it in.
I have to admit that I too don’t mind replacing yesterdays tech toys, today–because the newest functionality and design make it worth it to me.
Relatively speaking the computing power and connectivity we are getting is so cheap for what it is–which is life-changing.
I rely on the technology all the time (probably way too much–cyber security beware!) and for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, you can be at the top of your game.
To me it’s not the gadget that is irreplaceable anymore, but it’s the capability we are bringing to people.
Our life experiences are so much enhanced–because of the technology, we can share information, communicate, collaborate, transact, and entertain ourselves and each other like never before in history–those experiences are truly irreplaceable for each and every one of us–and that is more than any money can buy.
(Source Photo: here)