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12/11/2013
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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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The robots are coming, and they want our jobs. That's progress. In the 20th century, they wanted our women.

Actually, the robots don't want all of our jobs. They're said to be capable of competing for about 47% of them, at least in the US, given current technological expectations. So only half of us will need to retrain. The other option is to join the Resistance. Who knew The Terminator was an employment double entendre?

The other half of us should get used to being lonely on the job, which may evolve into making sure our mechanized colleagues don't malfunction or do something unexpected. Small consolation though it may be, if you're the last human on the factory floor, you won't need to worry about turning out the lights when you leave. That's the sort of task robots do very well.

Google's acquisition of seven robotics and technology companies in the past six months and its decision to give its nascent robotics business to former Android chief Andy Rubin suggests a serious commitment to automation. This isn't a Google Wave-style expeditionary mission. It's a beachhead that will allow the company to expand beyond the ocean of ones and zeroes and into the territory of manufacturing, logistics, and commerce.

Automation has been a reality in manufacturing for years. But now that we're getting to the point of changing state laws to allow driverless vehicles, it's clear the robot revolution won't remain confined to factories.

Google's competitors are advancing the state of the art. Last year, Amazon bought Kiva Systems, the maker of the robots it uses to carry goods in its warehouses, for $775 million.

In fact, robots are already here among us. You just don't see them because they're hard to recognize, or they operate outside the public view.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, industrial robot shipments in the US increased 9% from 2011 to a record 22,414 units in 2012. From 2014 to 2016, global robot installations are expected to increase an average of 6% per year. At the end of 2012, there were 1.2 million to 1.5 million operational industrial robots in the world.

Losing a job to a machine may be a tragedy on a personal level, but it could be quite desirable on a macroeconomic scale. An Information Technology and Innovation Foundation paper published in September argues that fear of robots amounts to neo-Luddism, and that we should deploy more robots to increase productivity, which will improve the economy.

Though the paper veers from supported argument to dubious speculation in places (as when it states, "There is no upward limit to our desire to consume"), it may be that things will work out in the end between humans and robots -- at least in terms of our relationship with deferential, unarmed machines. But it's worth wondering whether the ITIF will change its tune when robots become capable of filling executive and managerial roles.

Click the image above to explore a few jobs that robots are already doing or have demonstrated the ability to do. Be afraid or welcome our new robot overlords, as you prefer.

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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
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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

 
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.
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 | 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.
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