This is an update of a post that originally appeared on February 29, 2016.
I have written more than a few books now that involve robotics, AI, machine learning, deep learning, or some other form of advanced technology such as Machine Learning Security Principles, Artificial Intelligence for Dummies, 2nd Edition, Algorithms for Dummies, 2nd Edition, Python for Data Science for Dummies, and Machine Learning for Dummies, 2nd Edition. People have often asked me whether a Terminator style robot is possible based on comments by people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk (who seems to have changed his mind). It isn’t, Ex Machina and The Terminator notwithstanding. I’m also asked whether they’ll be without work sometime soon (the topic of this post). (As an aside, deus ex machina is a literary plot device that has been around for a long time before the movie came out.)
Whether your job is secure depends on the kind of job you have, whether robotics jobs will actually save money and improve the technology we already have, what you believe as a person, and how your boss interprets all the hype currently out there. For example, if your claim to fame is flipping burgers, then you’d better be ready to get another job soon. McDonald’s has opened its first mostly fully automated store in Texas. Some jobs are simply going to go away, no doubt about it.
However, robots aren’t always the answer to the question. Many experts see three scenarios: humans working for robots (as in a doctor collaborating with a robot to perform surgery more accurately and with greater efficiency), humans servicing robots (those McDonald’s jobs may be going away, but someone will have to maintain the robots), and robots working for humans (such as that Roomba that’s currently keeping your house clean). The point is that robots will actually create new jobs, but that means humans will need new skills. Instead of boring jobs that pay little, someone with the proper training can have an interesting job that pays moderately well.
An interesting backlash against automation has occurred in several areas. So, what you believe as a person does matter when it comes to the question of jobs. The story that tells the tale most succinctly appears in ComputerWorld, Taxpayer demand for human help soars, despite IRS automation (the fact that the IRS automation is overloaded doesn’t help matters). Sometimes people want a human to help them. This backlash could actually thwart strategies such as the use of robotic police dogs, which don’t appear to be very popular with the public.
There is also the boss’ perspective to consider. A boss is only a boss as long as there is someone or something to manage. Even though your boss will begrudgingly give up your job to automation, you can be sure that giving up a job personally isn’t on the list of things to do. Some members of the press have resorted to viewing the future as a time when robots do everything and humans don’t work, but really, this viewpoint is a fantasy. However, it’s not a fantasy that companies such as Hitachi are experimenting with robot managers. Some employees actually prefer the consistent interaction of a robot boss. It’s unlikely that managers will take this invasion of their domain sitting down and do something to make using robots untenable.
Robots are definitely making inroads into society and children growing up with robots being a part of their lives will likely be more accepting of them. Still, there is some debate as to just how far robot use will go and how fast it will get there. The interaction between business and the people that businesses serve will play a distinct role in how things play out. However, all this said, your job will likely be different in the future due to the influences of robots. For the most part, I feel that life will be better for everyone after the adjustment, but that the adjustment will be quite hard. Let me know your thoughts on robots at [email protected].