The Truth About Robots and Human Jobs

collaborative robots

Image Credit: Rethink Robotics

Of all the technology topics covered in the media today, robots are among both the hottest and, in some ways, the most feared.

Technology Has Treated us Well

Amid all the recent hysteria surrounding the perceived threat that robots pose to human jobs, we seem to have lost sight of what they actually are. The answer, of course, is technology.

Robots are simply a form of technology, albeit one that is growing and advancing at unprecedented rates in recent years. While this rate of advancement shows no signs of slowing in next two decades, it still seems slightly bewildering to think of these rapidly improving devices as distinct from any other disruptive technology that came before them.

As a society, most of us have a largely positive outlook on modern technological advances that have helped to shape the world we live in today. The internet, smartphones, airplanes and a long list of other giant leaps in technology have been widely credited with making new ideas possible and helping humans push forward in their thinking while defying previous limitations.

Why then, would robots be viewed any differently? It is a question worth asking and pondering over, certainly.

Employers Are Not The Only Ones Who Benefit

Can a robot outperform a human when it comes to stacking cups together so they fit neatly inside a plastic sleeve? Yes.

The explanation for why is what truly matters here. They perform such menial tasks consistently better than we do because the lack of mental stimulation for repetitive tasks like this essentially guarantees that we will space out and make mistakes.

If your job was to clean a bathroom and the only tool you had to achieve this task was a toothbrush, you wouldn't turn down a broom or a mop if someone offered you one.

Collaborative robots such as Baxter from Rethink Robotics act as automated tools that humans can use to increase overall productivity while posing no real threat to workers who can still beat them in other important areas where machines fall short.

It's important to remember that while robots do increase output and cut costs for employers, they also offer a long list of benefits to human employees at the same time.

This is far from being opinion --- there is actual data to back up the claim that robots are only a real threat to those jobs which humans turn down, avoid and find undesirable overall. For example, the SaviOne robot is designed to act as a snack-delivering butler and is already being used for that exact purpose in one hotel.

However, it should also be duly noted that the hotel industry boasts a 50% turnover rate for non-management positions, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. It would appear that relatively few human workers who could perform these same tasks are willing or interested in doing so.

Education Leads to Economic Evolution

According to The World Bank, High School enrollment in the U.S. between the years 1900 and 1940 among the 14-17 age group increased from 10% to a whopping 75%. This shift in education led millions of Americans away from farms and paved their path to better paying jobs as we neared the end of the 19th century.

Much like our attitudes towards technological advances, this shifting economic landscape that led to higher education for more people is regarded as a profoundly positive movement in the right direction.

At the end of the day, robots will not take your job. Their role in our society will simply hasten the evolution of our own minds and the ways in which we put our valuable skills to profitable use.


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