We all know that, right? But the vision of the future doesn’t necessarily have to be that dark. Quite the opposite – it can look very bright, and it’s all thanks to… robots!
My friend Robot
Bobby, Robbie, Rob – call him whatever you like; tame him as you can; better get to know him well, because sooner or later you will have to befriend him. And it doesn’t have to be a rocky relationship. Will a robot take your job? Maybe, what’s wrong with that?
There is one dominant vision of the future, in which we have to co-exist with robots on Earth. It’s usually a very grim vision, in which we fall victim to machines which are significantly wiser than us. Filmmaking, literature, visual arts – everyone threatens us and we eagerly succumb to these fears. Corporation employees shiver with fear, for the performance of their duties can be easily replaced by intelligent robots. Blue-collar workers, especially assembly line workers and all of the people performing simple duties, are also counting down days till their lay-off. We are inevitably approaching the end of the world as we know it. Are there really reasons to be afraid?
Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it won’t reduce the employment; on the other, it will change the skills sought by the employers. Obviously it might turn out that some professions won’t be as needed as before. It is an inevitable change that we just have to prepare for.
We have to bear in mind, though, that robot doesn’t necessarily have to be an intruder; quite the opposite, it might even significantly facilitate the performance of duties and make many of our tasks easier. Because what’s wrong with the fact that a robot would do disliked duties for us? Imagine the world where robots iron the shirts for us – I wouldn’t consider it to be a problem at all.
All joking aside, though.
Let’s bust some myths first. As it turns out, economic growth and technological development generate increased demand for employees. Neither luddites’ nor techno-skeptics’ apocalyptic visions have become true – automation and mechanisation makes it easier to work in certain professions and helps to optimise employee’s time. Therefore, we gain – we win 1-0.
Can you recall critical voices regarding the works on AI-controlled cars? And yet it is estimated that after introducing them into common usage, the number of accidents will decrease immeasurably – and so will the number of road traffic deaths. Why? Because it was a human behind the wheel which constituted the weak link in the chain – a human susceptible to fatigue, with disturbed focus, sometimes driving under the influence. Cars equipped with AI, radars and sensors reacting to the surroundings in real time can drive the machine on their own, basically reducing the risk to zero.
Trouble in paradise?
Automation can have (and has) its dark sides. Let’s imagine an assembly line worker, who spends his whole day tightening the screws in the same machine. It might appear that everything is so easy – his job might be effortlessly replaced by a robot, the worker leaves the assembly line job and might take on a creative and less repetitive task. But what if employee’s qualifications aren’t as high and they cannot cope with performing more complicated duties? Quite possibly they will be laid off and lose their source of income. There is a solution for that, and it’s called a Basic Income. It’s a monthly sum that every citizen receives regardless whether they work professionally or not. It’s an amount sufficient for basic needs and maintenance.
And even if this scheme is not perfect, it is some kind of an alternative project. Despite everything that the initiators of this vision are being accused for, Basic Income won’t foster general idleness; contrarily, it will allow people to unleash their potential, take on some occupation hazards (because our existence is secured anyway), contributing in consequence to the faster social development. Sounds like utopia? Maybe a little bit, I’ve got to admit.
Made in China
At one of Chinese factories, 256 production workers were replaced by 9 machines. The cost of installation of these robots was exactly the same as these workers’ yearly salary. One could think: ‘Is it even worth it?’ It has to be worth it, as the number of robots bought in China is highest in the world – even 36 thousands per year. They buy not only the machines, but also whole foreign companies that manufacture the robots for them. As they predict themselves – within 20 years’ time most of professions could be easily replaced by robots.
There’s no end of the world in sight
We shouldn’t worry in advance, but we have to be flexible and ready for changes – but that’s nothing new in our rushing world.
There are professional groups which will always remain in demand – these include, obviously, programmers, IT engineers and all of these professions which are closely related to technology. They will be needed in order to create the robots, write complicate algorithms and make the artificial intelligence less artificial.
Last but not least – a robot will surely never replace the closeness of the other human being. Probably none, not even the most advanced algorithm, will ever be able to satisfy one of the most important human needs. That’s why we should not be afraid of robots taking over the world. Without a human they will be just a pile of scrap. Quite clever, indeed, but still just a pile of scrap.