Humans stand on the verge of massive change as technology continues to advance exponentially almost every day. Klaus Schwab, Chairman of the World Economic Forum agrees. As he writes in an article for the World Economic Forum, it's "a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres," characterizing the fourth industrial revolution, and that its transformation won't be like anything "humankind has experienced before." He's talking about emerging technology in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and so much more.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Because the technological revolution progresses exponentially and not linearly, advancements have been occurring more rapidly since the advent of the information and electronic age than at any other time on Earth. By the year 2021, researchers expect robots to "steal" 6 percent of the jobs in the U.S., with the largest impacts expected to include consumer and customer services, transportation and logistics. But not to fear, the World Economic Forum predicts that 65 percent of the children in school right now will hold jobs that don't even exist today.
The Jobs Robots Do Now
The majority of robots or robotic-like equipment today work in manufacturing, from automotive and the aerospace industry to electronics and medical suppliers and more. Most manufacturing companies today use robots somewhere on the assembly line to make products or at its end where the robots inspect merchandise and package it for delivery to the customer. These robots don't look like the bi-pedal robots typically iconized in science fiction movies such as "I, Robot"; rather, they are more like robotic equipment, locked in one place to complete their specific tasks.
In manufacturing, robots add a level of precision and quality beyond what humans can perform. They don't get tired or sick and can complete their jobs in the exact same way every single time, adding a level of quality to products that humans just can't deliver. Manufacturers turn to robots because of their consistent efficiencies and quality, and because they can do jobs that are unsafe for humans to do.
What People Do When Robots Do Everything
Gainful employment means more than just making a living; it can offer self-fulfillment, a sense of accomplishment and in some cases, the ability to help others. A lot of people who win the lottery, even though they have all the money they need, often continue to work because it gives them a sense of purpose. While some people live to work, others work to live.
Today, many of the jobs people compete for didn't even exist five to 10 years ago, and that's only going to speed up as scientists and researchers make more discoveries in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics. In a job market that changes so rapidly, gaining a good grip on the future can help a person foresee the kind of employment the future holds and plan an education around the skills needed need to obtain them. In the past, each iteration of the industrial revolution led to increased affluence, company productivity and the creation of new jobs.
Planned Uses for Robots
At this moment in time, existing software in a start-up company called Arterys can complete an analysis of a magnetic imaging resonance readout of the heart and its blood flow in just 15 seconds, compared with a radiologist who requires 45 minutes to complete the same task. A Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot outdid surgeons in repairing the intestines of a pig in a test between the two. As robotics make inroads into the health industry, they are also replacing contract reviewers in the legal field, while others are learning to fly planes like the 737, pick stocks in the investment world and fight wars as robot warriors. These aren't the robots of the future; these advancements are happening right now.
The author of "Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future," Martin Ford, believes that robots and the ability of machines to learn doesn't provide humans with "new machines to replace old machines, pushing human workers from one industry to another," he believes instead that these learned machines – robots – can follow people into whatever field or industry they go into.
Author Alex Williams, in a "New York Times" article published in December 2017 called "Will Robots Take Our Children's Jobs," learned that the young children of today, who constantly read about robots in their bedtime stories and play with miniature toy versions, don't fear robots at all. When he asked his son why, he said, "because [robots] work for you."
While technological advancements seem on the surface to take away jobs, they usually bring new jobs with them. An Oxford University analysis predicts that of half the jobs that now exist, robots will do them within the next 25 years, and many more new jobs – that don't even exist right now – will arise. Such future jobs might include data detectives, artificial intelligence business managers and developers, AI-assisted health care workers, cyber analysts, robot managers and a whole host of new and more rewarding jobs.
- World Economic Forum: The Fourth Industrial Revolution - What It Means, How to Respond
- CBC News: Are Robots Coming for Our Jobs?
- World Economic Forum: Chapter 1: The Future of Jobs and Skills
- New York Times: Will Robots Take Our Children’s Jobs?
- Inc.: 21 Future Jobs the Robots Are Actually Creating
- Boston University: Will Robots Take My Job?
About the Author
As a journalist and editor for several years, Laurie Brenner has covered many topics in her writings, but science is one of her first loves. Her stint as Manager of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in California's gold country served to deepen her interest in science which she now fulfills by writing for online science websites. Brenner is also a published sci-fi author. She graduated from San Diego's Coleman College in 1972.