Robots, Who’s Telling Whom What To Do

Robot
There was an interesting quote about jobs of the future by Tom Preston-Werner in Bloomberg Businessweek:



“In the future, there’s potentially two types of jobs: where you tell a machine what to do, programming a computer, or a machine is going to tell you what to do. You’re either the one that creates the automation or you’re going to get automated.”



Already, we’ve seen manufacturing get outsourced by the millions of job to cheaper labor oversees or automated in factories by machines and robotics.



Similarly, agriculture has seen a large decrease in small family-owned farms, in lieu of mega farms run by multinationals and run by automated farm equipment with GPS and drones. 



The military is moving quickly to warfare by drones, robotics, and people geared-up in high-tech exoskeletons. 



Now in the sacrosanct service sector, where it has been said that it could never be done by anyone by local people in the communities, services are moving in the direction of robotics.

 

Perhaps even in government we can ask, can there be a future where robots can govern better than we can–and get things done speedily and efficiently!



In one Sci fi hit after another, from Star Trek to Battlestar Galactica to Terminator, a future of humanity embattled by cyborgs predominates. 



Like in the show, Lost in Space, where the robot in wont to say, “Crush, Kill, Destroy,” perhaps we can understand this as not jsut a physical threat as people’s lives, but also to their ability to earn a living in a world where automation challenges us with the children reframe:



“Everything you can do, I can do better. I can do everything better than you. Yes you can, no you can’t…”



At this point, I am not sure it is really a debate anymore, and that Preston-Werner is predominantly right…technology is the future–whether we are end up being eaten alive by it or are its earthly masters. 😉

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)

>The Robots Are Coming

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Forget waiters and waitresses, the new Japanese Hajime Robot restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand invested almost $1 million on 4 robotic waitstaff.

You order your food by touch screen computer, and there is a countdown on the screen for when the food is ready and the robot brings it out to you.

While the samurai clad robots are not the best looking—their huge eyes are a little cartoonish—they are certainly quite dexterous and able as they nimbly serve the food in this restaurant and dance for the customers in between courses without missing a beat.

Initially automation affected the jobs of blue-collar workers in manufacturing and mechanical work as robots displaced people on the “assembly line.” Now we see the trend continuing and expanding with automation entering the service industry and jobs involving customer interaction, entertainment, and retail being affected. This is happening not only in restaurants, but also elder care (like robot uBot5 being developed out of University of Massachusetts), and in major retail establishments such as in warehouse automation with Kiva Systems robots being employed by major companies like Gap, Staples, and Zappos.

Further, the expansion of robots into traditional human work is also happening in our military—think Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or Drones) like the Predators and Reapers, the robotics pack animals that can carry hundreds of pounds of gear (like Big Dog) and various bomb disposal robots. This is just the beginning.

We are witnessing the transformation of our workforce from traditional blue- and now even white-collar jobs to those with an emphasis on knowledge management (think engineers and technology professionals working at companies like iRobot, Intel, and Apple). This has obvious implications for selection of education pursuits and availability of professional opportunities in the future for our children and grandchildren.

The robots are coming. The robots ARE coming!