Technology is an unstoppable force and robots are becoming a significant part of our lives. It is likely we will be seeing more of them, especially now we are being asked to social distance and stay at home. Whether we are pleased or disturbed by the rise of robots, they have clearly started to change the way we live our lives. Here we explore those changes and what they could mean for you.
While the rise of robots has increased with COVID-19, with many large and small companies expanding how they use robotics, a lot of jobs have already started to be replaced. While there is a demand now for less staff in the workplace and easy social distances, machines were already being used to complete repetitive tasks.
Walmart, one of the largest retailers, uses robots to clean the floor in their commercial properties. However, the pandemic has made it even more imperative that we clean our homes and businesses carefully. Therefore, a Danish manufacturer, UVD Robots, has built a robot that can detect infection using ultraviolet-light and will then disinfect the area. Hundreds of these machines have been sent to hospitals across Europe and parts of China.
The expectation is that such robots will be used more widely in places where people congregate. Therefore, you can expect to see these robot cleaners in grocery stores, takeaway restaurants, schools, and offices.
While we may worry that the robot is overtaking an area of employment for many, experts note that there are still limitations to the current technology. For instance, while automated checkouts are common, they need a human to come along and disinfect them. Plus, these checkouts tend to break quite easily too.
Working at a distance
It is likely that the use of robotics in food service will increase. The move towards mechanical chefs has been trialed in fast-food chains such as McDonald’s for a while. The company has been testing the use of robots in the cooking of your burgers and then serving these at the counter.
The same sort of delivery technology is already being used in warehouses around the world. Massive online retailers such as Amazon and Walmart have been using robots for a while to improve the efficiency of their deliveries. Robots can travel through the warehouses and pick the exact products required and place them in your addressed box. A robot will also have labelled the box and then will continue to pack and prepare for shipping. The likelihood that robots could manage an entire warehouse facility without the need for human pickers is not beyond possibility.
The cost of introducing robots to warehouses is prohibitive. Therefore, the current danger to this job is limited to those companies that can afford the initial costs. However, the return on investment from robots is significant. In other words, the initial layout might be expensive but once in place, they are a lot cheaper than their human counterpart. If a company can play the long game and invest big, they will be earning more profits eventually.
All this sounds well and good, as the activities robots are undertaking are mindless and repetitive. Therefore, human beings still have a place. Yet, you ought not to be too quick to relax. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are now capable of evolving much of the intellectual capabilities of human counterparts. Therefore, it could become possible for robots to replace teachers, coaches and advisors.
You will have already experienced this AI in your life. Your phone begins to predict the words that you want to use in your messages. In other words, your smartphone learns about your voice and the language you use and becomes more efficient the longer you use it. Facebook and Google use AI to manage their feeds – making sure you get the most appropriate results for you.
While this all sounds terrifying, there are still those sceptics who believe that robots will never completely edge out humans. For instance, online learning was not seen as an effective replacement for schools. Why? Well, children needed social interaction and the influence of human contact from teachers. There are character qualities that people possess that technology cannot replicate, such as kindness, compassion, and more. Even in highly technological settings such as Facebook, there is still a need for human moderators because people are inventive enough to make use of the gaps that computers leave for us – that place where the algorithm just doesn’t work.
Is a robot taking your job?
While we can be sure that there are parts of us that robots can’t replicate, McKinsey predicted a third of jobs in the US would be replaced by automation by 2030. It is likely that this pandemic has sped this process up and the dominance of robotics may come quicker. However, there is room for humans to adapt. There is an opportunity to learn and develop your human qualities so that you are relevant in a world with technology. People need to decide now how they will integrate with technology in our world.