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Robots Are Taking Our Jobs

                       and we don’t care...

Robots are all around us taking            the low cost of this new generation of     robots and AI over the next 20 years.
           our jobs – but we don’t notice  robots will allow small and medium-        This may well be true, but it isn’t the
           them. They’ve been around       sized businesses to add robot              whole story. Most of these displaced
 for decades. They’re in ATM cash          “employees”.                               workers will find new occupations.
 machines, in supermarket self-                                                       I don’t think we’re going to see mass
 checkouts, in automated car washes,       These so-called collaborative robots,      unemployment caused by the robots
 in jet plane cockpits – and even in       coupled with new forms of 3-D additive     before the year 2035. Human workers
 humble dishwashers and washing            manufacturing (which is itself a form      displaced by technology will simply re-
 machines.                                 of robotics), is creating a renaissance    train to provide services we haven’t yet
                                           of manufacturing in the developed          realised we need (perhaps we’ll have
 More noticeably robots are in             nations. The arbitrage gained by           pet nutritionists, vacation consultants,
 automated vacuum cleaners, self-          shifting production from high-cost         lawn designers, Christmas consultants,
 parking cars and voice-recognition        economies to low-cost regions is           hoverboard coaches, friend finders,
 phone systems. Soon most cars will        now negated by the low cost of robot       family tree researchers…).
 have some robotic features and some       labour. Even China – once the main
 will be pure self-driving robots.         beneficiary of off-shored manufacturing    Going to college will become a regular,
                                           – is now investing heavily in robots to    repeated experience for humans in
 The human-style “android” robot of the    replace its own human work force.          the future. Many of us will go back
 movies that will supposedly one day                                                  to college in our thirties to gain
 walk among us is a misleading concept     Many commentators are suggesting           replacement skills; we might then
 when we try to think about the impact     once again that robots and strong          attend again in our fifties or sixties to
 robots are having, and will have, on      artificial intelligence (they’re           re-train once more. Robots are here
 business and society.                     essentially the same thing but in          among us today and, rather than
                                           different packaging and with different     being the terrifying Terminator-style
 Robots have been taking jobs              abilities) will cause widespread human     machines of science-fiction, they are
 from humans for years – think of          unemployment. A recent report from         quietly, efficiently and uncomplainingly
 typesetters, car washes and bank          Oxford University claimed that 47 per      freeing us from the dull, repetitive jobs
 clerks – but displaced humans have        cent of existing jobs will be replaced by  that have blighted working lives since
 simply retrained to provide more                                                     the start of the industrial revolution.
 interesting human-based services.                                                    Human employment opportunities will
 How many tattoo artists, personal                                                    remain excellent – at least for those
 fitness trainers, life coaches, private                                              who wish to work – for the next two
 tutors and dog hairdressers existed 25                                               decades. But, after that, all bets are
 years ago? Today they’re everywhere.                                                 off.

 But now “proper robots” are starting                                                 Ray Hammond is Europe’s most
 to arrive in force, and some of them                                                 experienced and widely published
 do seem to be more like the stuff of                                                 futurologist and he regularly
 science fiction. Low-cost, “soft” robots                                             publishes micro-lectures; you
 which can work safely alongside human                                                can see his latest one here where
 workers are beginning to transform                                                   he discusses the future of space
 the economics of manufacturing – and                                                 exploration. n

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