Articles about robots and artificial intelligences taking jobs from normal humans have been abound in social media feeds in recent months, because this topic has gained coverage from outlets spanning from Forbes (“After Robots Take Over Our Jobs, Then What?”) to The Guardian (“Robots to replace 1 in 3 UK jobs over next 20 years, warns IPPR”) and everything in between.
Some outlets such as Wired are painting a brighter picture–that we’ll have even better jobs once robots take over our old ones. There are a rare few on the fence, but most agree that robots and AI will have at least some notable impact on the outlook of human careers.
Since robots and AI aren’t known for nepotism or brown-nosing, their must be something in their skillsets that will boot us out.
It’s true, oftentimes robots and AI are more skilled and efficient at the tasks they are trained for than humans, and can continue to work and learn practically ceaselessly, even while humans sleep. (Although ethical issues can arise from this mindset as intelligence, consciousness, and sentience begin to blur.)
Take, for example, these Chinese robots that can operate a warehouse more efficiently, cost-effectively, and accurately than their human counterparts according to the South China Morning Post.
In fact, this hyper-efficient tiny orange robo-swarm has taken the internet by storm thanks to this viral video of their sorting methods.
The video shows the tangerine bots zipping around back and forth, sorting packages through the aid of a scanner which eliminates mistakes. Plus, the whole thing is set to an ultra-peppy tune that, thanks to the human tendency to anthropomorphize objects, makes them seem like that are gleeful to be completing their tasks so well.
From a company owner’s perspective, the draw toward bots is clear.
With today’s robots, you have an effective workforce that never needs a vacation, doesn’t require health insurance, and never complains or calls in sick. They also aren’t inclined to make mistakes due to exhaustion or personal matters. They don’t ask for a pay raise, they don’t rebel, and they don’t require extensive training and retraining.
In fact, when combined with artificial intelligence, factory robots can even train themselves to do their tasks more efficiently.
Of course, humans have their own benefits, such as deep, philosophical thought that, as far as we know, is currently outside the reach of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly complex, however. Because of the complexity of the algorithms that deep learning AIs use to reach a conclusion, and because they train themselves to reach their conclusions, the middle steps between question and solution are not well understood by even the most advanced artificial intelligence researchers, and even writers at MIT have likened this section of the process to a “black box.”
While we may run into greater ethical dilemmas with AI and robots in the future as they come into their own and perhaps reject the idea of slave labor, for now they are being used to great effect in business.
Those tiny orange Hikivision robots are reported to have halved worker costs at the Shentong Express warehouse.
With these factory robots, we continue to see man and machine working side by side–a symbiosis that will evolve over time in tune with the evolution of AI and robotics.