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12/11/2013
09:06 AM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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10 Jobs Destined For Robots

The machines are coming for some of our jobs. Be afraid or welcome our new robot overlords, as you prefer.
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Farm Worker

Harvest Automation positions its farming robot as a way to address labor scarcity issues. Hard though it may be to believe, the median income from farm work -- between $2,500 and $5,000 per year -- just doesn'tattract enough people.

Harvest Automation positions its farming robot as a way to address labor scarcity issues. Hard though it may be to believe, the median income from farm work -- between $2,500 and $5,000 per year -- just doesn't
attract enough people.

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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/11/2013 | 10:38:31 AM
Robots In Service Jobs
I stayed in a hotel in NY this year that had a robot system for storing and retrieving guest luggage. That kind of experience makes you think about what other service jobs will disappear. What is the most unusual robot you have come across lately, readers?
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Author
12/11/2013 | 11:09:46 AM
Re: Robots In Service Jobs
Other people have probably seen this, but I live out in the sticks, so it was new to me. The truck that picks up our garbage recently was upgraded to one with giant arms that reach out and dump the trash cans into the back. Now instead of three poeple riding in every truck, there is only one man driving it. If your trash can is not 3 feet from the curb and facing in the right direction to be picked up, they simply ignore it and keep on driving.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
12/11/2013 | 1:09:05 PM
Re: Robots In Service Jobs
Automated train control has been in the news recently, with the derailment of a Metro North passenger train in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring many more. The train was going way too fast around a turn because of human error. A government-mandated, industry-funded ($20 billion in all) system development effort called Positive Train Control promises to slow trains down automatically when they're going too fast. Originally, the railroad companies hoped they could help pay for this effort by eliminating an on-board engineer for every train once they implement PTC (due around 2015). They're fighting the unions on that front.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
12/11/2013 | 1:09:40 PM
Re: Robots In Service Jobs
The best use of robots (specifically software) I've seen recently has been T-Mobile. When you call the support line, the software tells you immediately you can speak with a human representative. It's a much better implementation than most companies, where you have to press several numbers and listen to canned messages before they allow you to select a human to interact with.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
12/11/2013 | 11:07:38 AM
Robots are no joke
Some of these jobs, unfortunately, really are better served by robots. Others like pilot, journalist, and pharmacist will become a hybrid -- some automation but mostly human. But the ones that can outright replace humans will do so (sailor, farm worker, warehouse worker). It's easy to say: 'Let the robots do the jobs we don't want if they can do them more cheaply and efficiently.' But there's just so many of us and we all need to work. People rendered useless by robotics will be forced to a life on the fringes, possibly crime.

Robotics and automation are increasingly hot topics. Google's acquisitions, Jeff Bezo's drones tease on 60 Minutes, rampant tech innovation and a sluggish economy are pushing the conversation forward. Five years ago, you joked about a robot taking your job. Now it's not so funny.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
12/11/2013 | 12:22:41 PM
Re: Robots are no joke
One example that was missed here is the work being done by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to develop robots that can respond to disasters and emergencies that would endanger human first responders.  Teams are competing to build robots that, for instance, must find a way to get into a utility vehicle and drive it, move over muddy and uneven terrain, pick up a firehose and attach it, then turn it on. 

Read more at DARPA Challenge: Build Virtual Robots - InformationWeek
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
12/11/2013 | 11:14:43 AM
Making things easier
Autonomous vehicles -- car, plane, sailing devices -- worry me. Seems like there's a higher risk for error and disaster. But I can get behind robots that make monotonous jobs easier. I'm awaiting one that will do my laundry.
vadertime
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vadertime,
User Rank: Strategist
12/11/2013 | 11:44:22 AM
They Are Coming
I've been following this story about Google's forray into robotics and Andy Rubin leading this group with great interest. As someone in the computer software industry, 30 + years, I have waiting for robotics to catch up. In the past 2 years, between Boston Dynamics, NASA and major universities around the nation, it seems like the process has sped up considerably. Just today I was reading an article about NASA developing a "human-like" robot for the DRC competition. Now, with Google in the mix with all their computing, engineering and scientific resources, it's going to really get interesting. It's just a matter of time. 

The manufacturing industry has been switching over to robotics and automated systems for decades. However, moving into the consumer world requires more finesse and complexity when it comes to robot-human interaction. The NASA Robot, named Valkyrie, is a prime example of a "human-friendly" robot, since it is covered in a fabric rather than cold steel or plastic. In this way, it is not repulsive when a human makes incidental contact with the robot. It also has a human-like appearance.

Boston Dynamics has been developing some very interesting robots for DARPA and the military over the past many years. Some of them are postitively frightening. However, their designs appear to me more geared towards robots that can challenge rough terrain and the great outdoors. Regardless, they appear to be one of the true pioneers in robotic ambulation and in robotic autonomy. 

After 35 years, C3PO and R2D2 are finally coming. For those of us who have chronic health problems, this may be a Godsent. By the way, there is a charming movie that came out earlier this year, available on demand from providers such as Netflix and Amazon called "Robot and Frank". It's a touching narrative on human-robot relationships.

 

 
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
12/11/2013 | 12:19:30 PM
Yikes
I used to think my writing work was pretty well protected since it was creative, but since that kid release Summly and it made me realise even writing can get interferred with by autonomous procedures. 
msmith801
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msmith801,
User Rank: Strategist
12/11/2013 | 1:07:01 PM
Re: Yikes
You will want to carefully check for grammatical errors if you want to claim that your writing is well protected.
f8lee
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f8lee,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/11/2013 | 2:33:49 PM
Race Against the Machine
I don't think the implications of robotic job replacement have been thought through by most; as time passes the displaced workers will have no jobs available to them unless they are highly educated and skilled. While this occured to me years ago, it's been codified in the book "Race Against the Machine" by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfree.

While the historical reply to the Luddite who feared technology replacing people has been "don't worry, in 10 years there will be jobs we cannot imagine today" has held true for a long time, we're hitting the point where it will no longer be. Where 100 years ago farm workers displaced by the likes of tractors and fertilizer moved to cities and could find work in factories (learning essentially as apprentices) this will not continue to be the case.

I agree with the notion that in 10 years there will be jobs we cannot imagine today, but those jobs will be for things like "photonic engineer"; demanding high degrees of specialization and not something that could in any way be "learned on the job". Meanwhile, when Harvest Automation (or iRobot, or whoever) develops the robot that can pick strawberries (which will happen, given advancements in haptics) then what farmer will put up with humans stooping in the fields? We're already seen where one of the fast food companies is testing a robotic burger making  machine; if minimum wage were to be raised to $15 an hour how long will it take them to implement those?

I recall reading last year where Foxconn's (the contract manufacturer that makes your gadgets) CEO announced he plans on getting one million robots in his factories - obviously a potential blow to China's employment situation. And a few years back, I think it was the CEO of Salesforce.com (or perhaps a CRM company) who predicted that the number of peple working in sales in the US would drop from some 18 million currently to about 5 million in the future.

So the big unanswered question is how society will deal with ever-increasing pools of people who want to work but really have no place to go?
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
12/11/2013 | 4:22:42 PM
Re: Race Against the Machine
>So the big unanswered question is how society will deal with ever-increasing pools of people who want to work but really have no place to go?

I hope there's an answer beyond war, disease, and/or gated communities. Given the current political gridlock in the US and the inflexibile governments in Russia and China, it's difficult to be optimistic about where things appear to be headed.
rmd929
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rmd929,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/11/2013 | 8:42:51 PM
10 Jobs Destined for Robots
Wellll, Terminator is one possible scenario of robots and humanity. I'm partial to a different prospective future, one outlined 15-20 years before the first Terminator movie. I'm partial to the vision of E.E. "Doc" Smith as outlined in his book Subspace Explorers. Not only to his vision of robots, but also to his version of the Theory of Enlightened Self Interest as it pertains to robots in the workplace.

Much more positive, much closer to reality, at least right now. 

Let's not forget all of the good that robots have done for the individual worker over the last 40-50 years. I am thinking specifically of heavy industry and the assembly line. The automotive industry is the best example. Prior to robots, when people retired from the assembly line, they were so crippled from the heavy, repetitive work that they were barely able to do simple tasks like walk or bend over to pick something up from the floor. Remember those people?

These are the types of jobs, those hazardous/detrimental to the human body that we are putting robots into. This includes farmwork. Try standing bent over for 8-12 hours per day for five days straight picking strawberries or tomatoes. Robots are not such a bad idea after all.

 
Chris McVey
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Chris McVey,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/11/2013 | 8:54:09 PM
Make yourself irreplaceable.
Face it, if your job can be done by a robot or a 12 year old in Indonesia, then you're not living up to your ability or fulfilling your obligation to the social contract.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
12/11/2013 | 11:50:41 PM
Re: Make yourself irreplaceable.
That's the point - in the future we need both systemtic education in school and continuous learning till the end of our life. If you are doing the job requiring just pure repetitive work, then you should consider what you will do in the future when robotics are mature enough? We need to leverage my our brain instead of body. Robot cannot be easily made to have full mind and creative - if one day it comes that robots can think by themselves, then our society may get taken over as well.
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Author
12/12/2013 | 8:02:03 PM
Re: Make yourself irreplaceable.
I agree with Li. The value of a human is not doing repeatable tasks over and over. It is the ability to put many pieces toghether and create new ideas from disparate places. Although manufacturing and services jobs with very specific focus areas may be assumed by robotics, many roles that require analysis and management can never be replaced by automation.
samicksha
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samicksha,
User Rank: Strategist
12/17/2013 | 2:59:48 AM
Re: Make yourself irreplaceable.
You keep good point Li, I guess we all knew that Robots are coming but were not sure what all jobs they will be doing. I got more understanding on same when i saw amazon working onn to replace its staff with drones.
virsingh211
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virsingh211,
User Rank: Strategist
12/17/2013 | 3:54:46 AM
Re: Make yourself irreplaceable.
I agree you samicksha, in fact i always wondered why robots, we are doing good job and then i realized it's not about cutting jobs but more about saving revenue. I read a very interesting blog about how Robots can help in improving datacenter efficiency. DC Robot can collect temperature data using three digital sensors and relays it through a Wi-Fi access point for post-processing. An algorithm converts the temperature data into a thermal map. The thermal map can then be used to easily identify the hot and cold spots of the data center aisles with location information. http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2013/08/26/how-a-robot-can-simplify-data-center-management/
pkolosso53001
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pkolosso53001,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/18/2013 | 10:39:03 AM
Future jobs
As to job creation in an advanced scientific humanistic society where we do not step over a person

with a tin cup, we could mandate that we will educate a segment of the population to provide the

core of a new class of workers (the entertainment sector) where all restraurants from the fast food

to the Four Seasons will provide live music from a string quartet to a progressive jazz trio during

operating hours. 

This entertainment cost with fringe benefits will be structured into the overhead as a component

and reflected in the menu and/or bar invoice.

"Non datur ad Musas currere latavia" Id., III, 1, 14
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