Will a Robot Take Your Job?
Examining how robots can be used to replace human workers. There are a lot of reasons why humans could be replaced by robots but it doesn’t seem to be happening in real life. People are constantly being replaced by machines but more jobs for people keep appearing. If machines ever get to the point where they are technically capable of doing everything people will still be hesitant to use them for everything because of potential damage to the economy.
People have been worried about losing their jobs to machines for a long time. John Henry was able to outperform a steel-driving machine but he died in the process. In modern times, very little has changed. People are still working dangerous and difficult jobs. People are still doing jobs that they feel that they are forced to do by necessity. Despite how unpleasant some jobs can be, most people do not want to be replaced by machines because they don’t want to lose their livelihoods. Some people believe that the recent recession the United States experienced was caused by extensive automation in factories. Many people believe that robots and other machines will be able to replace 80% of all workers (Eliot 2014). If 80 percent of all workers were replaced with robots that would potentially cause massive unemployment because eighty percent of the people may not be able to get jobs programming robots. Other scholars estimate that only about 47% of human employment is at risk (Benedifkfrey, Osboune 2014). Even though the technology to replace most people with robots is possible, this will probably never happen because of the potential devastation to the economy.
Some people are surprised when they learn that the Republican party was the ones who opposed slavery in the United States, but it makes perfect sense. Republicans are the party that is in favor of big business and they knew that having a sizable portion of the population working without receiving a paycheck was not good for big business. Ending slavery in the United States expanded the economy and made room for the industrial revolution. The technology of the industrial revolution created jobs rather than destroying them. Before the industrial revolution, 80 percent of the country’s population worked on farms. In the modern age, less than 20 percent of the population is employed in agriculture. Modern day people are currently employed in a variety of fields that did not exist in the 1920s. An optimist might predict that this trend will continue forever with new technology constantly creating new jobs.
The main barrier to increased technological development is lack of natural resources. Even if we recycle every piece of outdated technology and run everything off of solar power. We will still eventually run out of the minerals necessary to make enough robots to replace most of the human workforce. When a company wants to open up a new mine they generally use the promise of creating jobs as an incentive for allowing the environmental harm that mining usually causes. If the mining is being done by robots communities have little incentive to allow their land to be destroyed in order for more robots to be made.
Computer and machine performance tends to double in performance every 18 months. If this trend continues it will be very much possible for robots to be able to do a wide variety of jobs traditionally performed by humans.in the next 40 years. Over the years great deals of jobs have already been taken over by machines. Most Automation so far has occurred in factories. Even though factories have experienced extensive automation there are still millions of people employed in factories. It is a lot cheaper for companies to use some form of automation operated by low wage workers than it is to try and create a completely human free factory. Providing jobs for people in underdeveloped countries provides many benefits to the corporation. They get to produce goods cheaply and they are also producing customers. When someone leaves sustenance farming to go work in a factory they have money to spend on goods sold by the same corporations that employ them. When the Model T was still being sold and Henry Ford offered his workers a wage that was double the usual wages the entire United States became more prosperous as a result.Henry Ford doubled the wages to stabilize his workforce. Since it worked well for him other businesses started raising wages as well. With so many people making decent money many companies were able to prosper and sell new things that very few people could afford before.
In modern times factory jobs are much more difficult to find in the United States than they were during Henry Ford’s time. The economic effects have been devastating in rust belt cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. Most of the jobs available in The United States today are in the service industry. Since service industry jobs can’t be sent overseas the way manufacturing jobs can be outsourced the only way to save on labor cost is to increase automation or make the customers do the work themselves. At Giant Eagle, Wal Mart and Target customers have the option of checking themselves out rather than waiting in line for a cashier. Many restaurants are experimenting with getting the customers to enter their orders using a tablet rather than having a waiter take the order. The problem with this form of technology is that it provides less value to the customer. Many people find checking themselves out to be extremely frustrating. It would certainly be possible for someone to design and build a cashier robot that could do all the work but the price tag would probably be prohibitive. Some restaurants in Asia use robotic waiters. The machines are capable of bringing the right food to the right table but they cannot answer questions about the food the way a human server can. “The two waiter bots at Bangkok’s Hajime Robot Restaurant, for example, cost a total of $930,000”.( Winn 2011) At that price most small independent restaurant owners will not be very anxious to replace their $2.13 / hour waiters anytime soon. Holiday Inn Express has a pancake making contraption for the free breakfast they offer. The machines are leased from the company rather than purchased outright by the hotel. A company called Momentum Machines has invented a device that can make 360 hamburgers in an hour (Merchant, 2012). A machine like that can replace a lot of workers but it’s still a far cry from a completely automated McDonald’s. In order to replace all the cooking staff, they will need a machine that can make each one of the menu items they offer not just hamburgers. Having a separate machine for each menu item would take up too much space. Eventually, the technology could become compact enough to work for fast food places with a limited menu. If fast food is completely automated in the next 10 years it will be difficult for a lot of young people to find their first job. Designing an actual robot that could cook like a human would present a host of challenges. There is a robot chef being developed that can mimic the movements of a human chef. It cost $15,000 and so far only knows how to make crab bisque. The company plans to give it the ability to make over 2000 items before they start selling it. The machine cannot move from its spot or see so it is unable to locate utensils or ingredients. It is also unable to prep or chop ingredients(Anthony 2015). This $15,000 machine obviously can’t replace a human chef. The robot would have to be able to work in varying temperatures, be extremely dexterous, and have excellent product identification skills and the ability to taste. This would be an incredible feat of engineering considering that most robots currently in existence can’t even vacuum a floor as well as a human operated vacuum. According to consumer reports, even the best robotic vacuum on the market does not perform as well as a human using an upright vacuum. Roomba is a company that has been selling robotic vacuums since 2002. The amount of effort it would take to design a robot that can completely replace a human would be better spent elsewhere considering that there is no guarantee that the robot would even be that popular. Even when robots that can perform routine tasks as well as humans, are developed there will always be humans who will mistrust them and refuse to use them, Thanks to the popularity of movies such as The Terminator and The Matrix many people are not going to feel comfortable patronizing a business full of intelligent robots. Red light cameras have been fully operational for over twenty years yet they are used in less than half of all American states. The cameras are effective and generate revenue for the governments that install them but many citizens are against them on principle and most communities who have a chance to vote against having them will do so. Even in a city like Cleveland that is plagued with police brutality and in desperate need of revenue people would rather take their chances with a human officer than receive tickets in the mail from a machine.
There are a lot of reasons that complete automation of most jobs seems inevitable. The technology is becoming more and more possible every day. One machine has typically replaced at least 3 workers or as many as 13 in industrial settings. Even if the machines are very expensive to purchase for a large company with a lot of capital the machines could soon pay for themselves with reduced labor cost. There are a lot of reasons why the complete automation of most jobs is a very bad idea. Designing and building more technology means more exploitation of resources which means more pollution. Decreases in employment opportunities will result in more crime and less buying power. Less buying power will result in less profitability which defeats the whole point of automation in the first place. The Department of Labor has predicted that 23.4 percent of all workers will need to be replaced by 2022. It’s unlikely that most of them will be replaced by robots not because it isn’t technically possible but because it’s bad for the economy.
Originally published at 01.media.