The public perception of robots taking over the job industry is overwhelming. But first, I would like you to erase the concept that a robot is a machine with human like physical appearances like is shown in the movie ‘Robocop‘ :) . Yes, it can be that, but that is not the actual description. A robot is a machine that has the ability to carry out a number of tasks automatically without or minimal human intervention. It can be a software, infrastructure, hardware or many other forms. Considering the diversity of our job industries, a simple robot has the ability to do almost a third of the labor in any industry.
Job Analysis and Possible Outcomes
To determine if our current jobs will be eliminated or not, by the robots, many calculations will have to be done to have an estimate of the same. And since most jobs involve skills, it will be difficult to have a list of all jobs and the skills required for each one. And even if such a calculation was done, skills in the job markets change constantly. To add on that, we don’t know how many jobs can be created by robots that our current perception on robots is preventing us from seeing. We don’t know how quickly society will accept the bots in the jobs currently held by humans. There is no clear view of how insurers and banks will react to the robots. And so many other presumptions.
There are three possible outcomes that may result to the integration of robots in the job industry.
- Robots will take all the jobs : This means that robots will perform jobs better than human beings. This will include drawing art, being a policeman and even presidency!
- Robots will take some of the jobs : In that, there will be a net substantial loss of jobs to the bots. To mean that robots will take most of the jobs as compared to the number of jobs they will create.
- Robots will take none of the jobs : To believe that there is a possibility of the robots creating new jobs that none of us, currently, is aware of.
Technology is relentless
Let us jog our memory back to the the beginning of the third age when writing was invented. Most people criticized the idea of writing. The famous Plato, in his writings describes a great king rebuking the god who invented writing, telling him:
“For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory…. You have invented an elixir not of remembering, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom.”
Well, it is true that writing has affected our memories. Writing outsources our memory such that we have something to refer to. Back then, before writing existed, if you wanted to know something, you had to remember it. Writing faced its critics, but as time went by, it became a norm. In the 1850s, William Lee invented the stocking frame knitting machine. He demonstrated the wonders of his device to Queen Elizabeth hoping to get a patent. The Queen found the device cunning but remonstrated Lee by saying;
“Consider thou what the invention could do to my poor subjects. It would assuredly bring to them ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars”
Lee had to leave England because of the anger and threats he received. On the other side, French textile workers resisted the automated looms by throwing their wooden shoes into the machinery. Back in the days, invention was harshly received and this demotivated a lot of people who had ideas. The main reason the inventions faced negative feedbacks is because, one way or the other, there was going to be less labor for the people. The same is happening to the robots despite their tremendous effects to our lives so far.
Our desire for robots has been to build them to do the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs. Most of the jobs that the robots will take are just repetitive tasks that drain employees. If people embraced the integration of robots, then they will focus their attention on high value jobs. This will improve the overall performance of our livelihood.