December 29, 2012

Robots Taking Your Job

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)


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