The robots are not coming… they’re already here. Ever since the robot Sophia was granted citizenship status by Saudi Arabia in October, a harsh and unremitting spotlight has hovered over the field of robotics. Some may argue that the granting of citizenship was a publicity stunt by the Saudi government designed to frame the nation as a hub of technology and innovation as the realities of a post-oil economy become more and more pressing. Nonetheless, Sophia represents some interesting musings on the nature of robotics and how our relationship with robots is likely to change by the time we reach the mid 2020s. Many science fiction books, films and video games have pondered the relationship between humanity and machines and how it may lead to our benefit or obliteration. From the bleak tech-noir nihilism of The Terminator to the scathing but ultimately hopeful Wall-E, the ponderings of yesterday’s science fictions seem, according to a recent report, very much the realm of today’s science fact.
Training the workforce of tomorrow today
Human Paragon details in a recent article some consumer robots that will likely have a place in many homes within a decade, but while there’s no doubt that robots will likely help to make our home lives easier, more and more people are becoming wary that robots will one day rob them of their livelihood. Any recent graduate can tell you how competitive the job market is and according to Bill Gates, it’s likely to get a whole lot worse. The billionaire tech giant believes that in order to survive the job market of tomorrow one must specialize in engineering, the sciences or economics to survive.
In order to ensure that humanity retrains its relevancy in an increasingly post-scarcity economy we need to think long and hard about the skills and knowledge with which we imbue tomorrow’s workforce.
We’re already seeing the economic and social effects around the world of towns and cities where manufacture is in decline. Unfortunately, the increasing cost and productivity advantages of automation mean that manufacturing jobs are likely to decline even further. As robotic limbs are able to do increasingly delicate and complex tasks, the human skill factor is becoming less and less of an issue.
The service industry
Self service machines are already taking the place of front of house employees all across the service industry. Walk into a fast food franchise restaurant in a major conurbation and you’ll notice touch screens where once there were beaming employees. As self service technology becomes more sophisticated it could hugely reduce the need for service staff.
Blue collar jobs aren’t the only ones at risk. As mathematical algorithms become more sophisticated, AI solutions are becoming increasingly common in helping CEOs make financial decisions, manage their cyber security and run their companies.
Technology taketh away, but technology giveth too!
It’s not all doom and gloom! As many jobs as technology makes obsolete, it creates jobs as it develops new industries around it’s technologies. If today’s fast food employee become tomorrow’s app developers we see how improvements in education, technology and training can help to create a better society for all of us.