Robots Are Stealing Our Jobs; But That's Okay!

by Sohini Bagchi    Mar 29, 2016


In recent years, major advances in robotics and computing have led some to believe that one day (and the day is not too far!) robots will become smart enough to take over most of our jobs. Of course, the digital wave, comprising big data, advanced analytics, internet of things, wearables, machine learning and 3D printing are finding their way into factories.

Needless to say, this transformation will continue to have profound implications on employment, affecting everything from the size of the workforce, to the skillsets required and the locations of factories.

However, do we need to live in fear? Not really, assure scientists, who see this as a natural progression in the advanced digital world.

It’s only the routine jobs 

The Korea Employment Information Service (KEIS) has identified over 400 jobs that artificial intelligence could soon replace. The jobs were analyzed using “The Future of Employment,” Oxford university professor Michael Osborne’s research paper. While the numbers are staggering, the jobs including concrete worker, butcher, security guard and delivery man were at the top of the list.

“These jobs featured repetitive work, a lack of finesse, and needed minimum human communication. Jobs that required high levels of creativity, such as artists, photographers, writers and conductors, were least likely to be replaced even if AI competed with humans in the job market,” the study published in Korea Times mentioned.

Read more: Robot CEOs: Are We There Yet?

Park Ka-yeul, a KEIS researcher stated that robots will only replace repetitive work and sensible main decision-making will still remain exclusive to humans. “It’s beneficial for humans, because we can avoid hard manual labor and concentrate on more important decision-making,” he added.

Another report published on Wired, The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-By-Side With Robots, too assures that robots will not take all the jobs. The report author J. P. Gownder, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research forecasts that 16% of jobs will disappear due to automation technologies between now and 2025, but that jobs equivalent to 9% of today’s jobs will be created. Physical robots require repair and maintenance professionals — one of several job categories that will grow up around a more automated world. That’s a net loss of 7%, far fewer than most forecasts (though still a significant job loss number).

Filling up the gap

Business leaders in the US too have identified robotics as a major source of jobs, with many openings currently unfilled. A report conducted by the National Robotics Education Foundation (NREF) stated that smart robots are built to function autonomously without the need for human interference. These robots are increasing being applied in several areas such as healthcare, automotive industries, process industries and manufacturing industries among others.

Today, there are an estimated over 150 thousand unfilled positions in robotics related workplaces in the U.S. alone, according to industry surveys. These positions often pay higher than average salaries for even the most basic service openings, according to another survey by ISI for NREF, explained Thomas Atwood, NREF’s Executive Director.

In a report to Congress last month, White House economists forecast that there is an 83 percent chance that workers earning less than $20 per hour will lose their jobs to robots. Another projection, made by the World Economic Forum in January, suggests that robots will replace 5 million workers by 2020. But in order for us not to see the effects of possible job loss, new jobs need to emerge at the same time that artificial intelligence replaces the old jobs.

Robots coming into the limelight would suggest a major job transformation in the industry, as analysts predict, by 2019, 25% of all job tasks will be offloaded to software robots, physical robots, or customer self-service automation. Gownder stated, “For most workers, robotic colleagues will change the way we approach our daily jobs, requiring new methods of job training, management, financial reporting systems, and the like.”

Not without challenges

While robots are already making an entry for good, the biggest conflicts in the robotics revolution would be that robots can malfunction if a wrong algorithm is embedded in them. This can have a negative impact and can even pose harm to their surrounding environment, believe experts.

Moreover, the development of smart robots involves high expenditure in research and development. Training and development and the costs associated with it is often turn out to be an issue. However Atwood suggested that the ongoing technological improvement in robotics is expected to lower the price of smart robotics and ensure commercial production of smart robots in future in a few years from now, the signs are already obvious.

Read more: Study Shows New Role Of Robots In The Economy

And finally, the long term implication can be worrisome. Can we cope with the fast paced changes in the robotics market? What if techies aren’t able to transform themselves in the new world of robots who will continue to make the humans obsolete in the job market. As Warren G Bennis, an eminent scholar and author who advised presidents and business executives on his academic specialty, made a powerful statement, “The factory of the future will have only two employees: a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Well that’s something to think over!