The Robotics Revolution
The robotics revolution is coming — whether we want it to or not. Gone are the days of rough, awkward robots that could only perform the simplest tasks. The newest generation of robots is capable of performing tasks that are considered delicate — soldering tiny electronics or assembling fragile pieces.
While this could be a great thing in terms of production speed and costs, it could eliminate factory jobs across the country. Knowing what industries will be most affected can help you prepare, but are there other ways to get ahead of these changes?
For industries that require a high amount of production consistency, the introduction of robotics could potentially be a boon. Some of the benefits of utilizing robotics in the workplace include:
- Safety. Dangerous jobs that have a high occurrence of worker injury can be replaced by robotics to make the workplace safer. It could also be a help to surgeons performing delicate procedures.
- Consistency. Properly calibrated robotics can produce consistent products by removing human error. They can be programmed to change the parameters of their job depending on the materials being processed.
- Productivity. When working with many specific data requirements, robots can more efficiently understand what information applies to the current parameters of a project than humans can. What are the minimum and maximum micron measurements appropriate for a project? While you might have to consult various other resources to arrive at an answer, industrial robots know this information automatically.
- Costs. Beyond the initial investment cost, robotics have the potential to reduce overall labor costs. They can work cheaper, obviously, but without health care and overtime considerations, robotics could potentially save businesses millions.
Robotics could potentially shape and change a variety of industries, but do the benefits outweigh the possible cons?
Most of the cons that accompany the discussion of industrial robotics fall into three categories:
- High Initial Cost. Setting up industrial robotics in a factory requires a massive initial investment. It is a fairly new addition to the industry, meaning that purchasing used or refurbished equipment is nearly impossible.
- Lack of Expertise. It takes a while to learn how to properly use and maintain this equipment, and there currently aren’t enough industrial robotics experts to go around.
- Replacing Human Workers. People are worried their jobs will be eliminated by the introduction of robotics, which we will discuss in more detail.
If the first two problems listed can be overcome, the cons of industrial robotics become a matter of automation anxiety.
One of the biggest worries is whether people will lose their jobs once industrial robotics becomes mainstream. According to researchers at Oxford University, you could see robots completing nearly 45% of manufacturing by 2025. Some countries, like China and Japan, have already gotten a jump on the industry, incorporating more robots per industry than any other country in the world.
Bill Gates, the mind behind Microsoft, believes businesses that replace human workers with robotics should pay a tax equivalent to the income tax of a human worker. While that ensures services like Social Security and Medicaid taken from income tax will continue to be funded, no one has yet presented a solution for the workers who might be left out of a job.
What Industries Will Be Most Affected?
What industries will be most affected by the robotics revolution?
- Customer service. Telemarketing, sales, accounting and tax collecting are all fields at risk of being replaced by robotics.
- Financials. No matter how well you know your job, the human mind can’t compare to a computer when it comes to math.
- Food Service. The candlestick maker might be safe, but not so for the butcher or the baker. Both jobs can be easily automated. Fast food cooks also fall into this category.
- Taxi Drivers. Taxis are already in danger due to the rise of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, but when you incorporate autonomous cars into the mix, the industry might collapse entirely.
On the other side of the spectrum, jobs that require a lot of intuition and empathy, like physicians, therapists and clergy members, are relatively safe. There is a lot that a robot can do, but, for now, those things don’t include empathy and emotional support.
The robotics revolution is coming, and it has the potential to improve the way we do everything from bake bread to manufacture cars. What we can’t forget is the human element — the people who have shaped the industry to make it what it is today.
While their jobs might be replaced by robots, there is no replacement for the contribution they’ve made. It’s our job to make sure employment opportunities still exist for people displaced by robotic workers.
By Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews is a technology writer dedicated to exploring issues related to the Cloud, Cybersecurity, IoT and the use of tech in daily life.
Her work can be seen on such sites as The Huffington Post, MakeUseOf, and VMBlog. You can read more from Kayla on her personal website.