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Here Come The Robots – And They Are Going To Take Almost All Of Our Jobs

Robot Human Hand - Public DomainWhat is going to happen to society when robots are able to do just about everything better, faster and cheaper than human workers can?  We live at a time when technology is increasing at an exponential pace.  Incredible advancements in robotics, computer science and artificial intelligence are certainly making our lives more comfortable, but they are also bringing fundamental changes to the workplace.  For employers, there are a lot of advantages to replacing human workers with robots.  Robots don’t surf around on Facebook when they are supposed to be working. Robots don’t need Obamacare, lunch breaks or vacation days. Robots never steal from the company and they never complain.  Up until fairly recently, human workers could generally perform many tasks more cheaply than robots could, but now that is rapidly changing.

For example, a coffee shop has just opened up in San Francisco that is manned by a robot instead of a human…

Tired of your barista misspelling your name on your morning cup of joe? Perhaps a robot could do better. On Monday, Cafe X opened its very first robotic cafe in San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center. Promising “precision crafted specialty coffee in seconds, the way the roaster intended,” Cafe X thinks that anything a human can do, its machines can do better.

Specifically, one very special machine. Nicknamed Gordon, after a Cafe X employee, this robot mans, or robots, two standard professional coffee machines in order to serve up espressos and lattes. In the San Francisco location, customers can grab a cup of coffee with beans from AKA Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters, or Peet’s. While the coffee itself may not make Cafe X stand out from the competition, the startup hopes that the robot’s efficiency will.

If that coffee shop demonstrates that it can be much more profitable than a coffee shop with human employees, it is just a matter of time before human baristas start to be phased out all over the nation.

A similar thing is happening in many supermarkets.  Personally, I hate the “self-checkout lines”, but you are starting to see them everywhere these days.

And according to the Sun, Amazon is playing around with a concept that would employ hardly any human workers at all…

In the case of Amazon’s automated retail prototype, a half-dozen workers could staff an average location. A manager’s duties would include signing up customers for the “Amazon Fresh” grocery service. Another worker would restock shelves, and still another two would be stationed at “drive-thru” windows for customers picking up their groceries, fast-food style.

The last pair would work upstairs, helping the robots bag groceries to be sent down to customers on “dumbwaiter”-like conveyors, a source said.

With the bare-bones payroll, the boost to profits could be huge. Indeed, the prototype being discussed calls for operating profit margins north of 20 percent. That compares with an industry average of just 1.7 percent, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

During the recent presidential campaign, much was made of the fact that we have shipped millions of good paying jobs overseas over the past several decades.

We can certainly try to make some laws that would keep American workers from losing jobs to foreign workers, but pretty soon workers all over the world are going to be losing millions of jobs to technology, and it is going to be just about impossible to make laws to prevent that from happening.

Just check out what is happening in China.  Many big firms had moved manufacturing to China because labor was much cheaper over there, but now a lot of those cheap Chinese workers are being replaced by robots

Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, Foxconn, in fact, has already begun automating certain work that was previously done by hand. A Chinese government official told a Hong Kong newspaper in May that Foxconn had replaced 60,000 workers with robots at one factory there. And the company is receiving incentives north of Shanghai in the eastern-central Jiangsu Province to accelerate investments in robotics to replace human labor, according to Chinese state media organization Xinhua.

Sadly, this is just the beginning.  According to one study, 49 percent of all activities currently performed by human workers could already “be turned over to some sort of machine or robot”…

About 49% of worker activities can be turned over to some sort of machine or robot, increasingly helped along by artificial-intelligence software, according to consultancy McKinsey.

About 58% of CEOs plan to cut jobs over the next five years because of robotics, while 16% say they plan to hire more people because of robotics, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.

And Carl Frey of Oxford University has determined that some professions have more than a 90 percent chance of becoming automated in the coming years

The revelations that dependable office jobs such as insurance workers and real estate agents have a more than 97% chance of becoming computerised could now spark fears among the middle class workforce.

‘While low-skilled jobs are most exposed to automation over the forthcoming decades, a substantial number of middle-income jobs are equally at risk.’ Frey told The Times.

Other jobs that feature high on the ‘risk list’ are credit analysts who have a 97% chance of losing their jobs to robots, postal service workers at 95% and lab technicians who have an 89% chance of seeing their role become automated.

So what in the world are we going to do with billions of human workers around the globe that are no longer needed when technology takes virtually all of our jobs?

Some have suggested that the idea of “work” will become a thing of the past, and that society will evolve into a socialist utopia where everything we need is provided for by the government.  In fact, the concept of a “universal basic income” is already being promoted in Europe and elsewhere.

But others see a dystopian future where the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” grows greater than ever before.  Humanity has always been plagued by poverty and greed, and everyone agrees that the gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us has been growing very rapidly in recent years.

Where there is nearly universal agreement is on the fact that big changes are coming.  Workers are going to be displaced by technology at an accelerating rate in the years ahead, and this will present a tremendous challenge for us all.

The Robots Are Coming, And They Are Replacing Warehouse Workers And Fast Food Employees

Robot 2014There are already more than 101 million working age Americans that are not employed and 20 percent of the families in the entire country do not have a single member that has a job.  So what in the world are we going to do when robots start taking millions upon millions more of our jobs? Thanks to technology, the balance of power between employers and workers in this country is shifting dramatically in favor of the employers.  These days, many employers are wondering why they are dealing with so many human worker “headaches” when they can just use technology to get the same tasks done instead.  When you replace a human worker with a robot, you solve a whole bunch of problems.  Robots never take a day off, they never get tired, they never get sick, they never complain, they never show up late, they never waste time on the Internet and they always do what you tell them to do.  In addition, robotic technology has advanced to the point where it is actually cheaper to buy robots than it is to hire humans for a vast variety of different tasks.  From the standpoint of societal efficiency, this is a good thing.  But what happens when robots are able to do just about everything less expensively and more efficiently than humans can?  Where will our jobs come from?

And this is not something that is coming at some point in “the future”.

This is already happening.

According to CNN, there will be 10,000 robots working to fulfill customer orders in Amazon.com warehouses by the end of 2014…

Amazon will be using 10,000 robots in its warehouses by the end of the year.

CEO Jeff Bezos told investors at a shareholder meeting Wednesday that he expects to significantly increase the number of robots used to fulfill customer orders.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Amazon.  And if robots can get me my stuff faster and less expensively that sounds great.

But what if everyone starts using these kinds of robots?

What will that do to warehouse jobs?

PC World has just done a report on a new warehouse robot known as “UBR-1”.  This robot is intended to perform tasks “normally done by human workers”…

The UBR-1 is a 4-foot tall, one-armed robot that could make warehouses and factories more efficient by performing tasks normally done by human workers.

Unlike the industrial robots widely used in manufacturing today—usually large machines isolated from people for safety reasons—this robot can work alongside humans or autonomously in a workspace filled with people.

This little robot costs $50,000, and it can work all day and all night.  It just needs a battery change every once in a while.  The creators of this robot envision it performing a vast array of different tasks…

“We see the robot as doing tasks, they could be dull, they could be dirty, they could be dangerous and doing them repetitively all day in a light manufacturing environment,” said Melonee Wise, Unbounded Robotics CEO and co-founder. Those tasks include stocking shelves, picking up objects and assembling parts.

The UBR-1 isn’t designed for small component assembly, but it can manipulate objects as small as dice or a Lego piece, Wise said. Unbounded Robotics is targeting companies that want some automation to speed up their manufacturing process, but can’t afford to fully automate their businesses.

To many people this may sound very exciting.

But what if a robot like that took your job?

Would it be exciting then?

Of course you can’t outlaw robots.  And you can’t force companies to hire human workers.

But we could potentially have major problems in our society as jobs at the low end of the wage scale quickly disappear.

According to CNN, restaurants all over the nation are going to automated service, and a recent University of Oxford study concluded that there is a 92 percent chance that most fast food jobs will be automated in the coming years…

Panera Bread is the latest chain to introduce automated service, announcing last month that it plans to bring self-service ordering kiosks as well as a mobile ordering option to all its locations within the next three years. The news follows moves from Chili’s and Applebee’s to place tablets on their tables, allowing diners to order and pay without interacting with human wait staff at all.

Panera, which spent $42 million developing its new system, claims it isn’t planning any job cuts as a result of the technology, but some analysts see this kind of shift as unavoidable for the industry.

In a widely cited paper released last year, University of Oxford researchers estimated that there is a 92% chance that fast-food preparation and serving will be automated in the coming decades.

It is being projected that other types of jobs will soon be automated as well

Delivery drivers could be replaced en masse by self-driving cars, which are likely to hit the market within a decade or two, or even drones. In food preparation, there are start-ups offering robots for bartending and gourmet hamburger preparation. A food processing company in Spain now uses robots to inspect heads of lettuce on a conveyor belt, throwing out those that don’t meet company standards, the Oxford researchers report.

Could you imagine such a world?

When self-driving vehicles take over, what will happen to the 3.1 million Americans that drive trucks for a living?

Our planet is changing at a pace that is almost inconceivable.

Over the past decade, the big threat to our jobs has been workers on the other side of the globe that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

But now even those workers are having their jobs taken away by robots.  For example, just check out what is happening in China

Foxconn has been planning to buy 1 million robots to replace human workers and it looks like that change, albeit gradual, is about to start.

The company is allegedly paying $25,000 per robot – about three times a worker’s average salary – and they will replace humans in assembly tasks. The plans have been in place for a while – I spoke to Foxconn reps about this a year ago – and it makes perfect sense. Humans are messy, they want more money, and having a half-a-million of them in one factory is a recipe for unrest. But what happens after the halls are clear of careful young men and women and instead full of whirring robots?

Perhaps you think that your job could never be affected because you do something that requires a “human touch” like caring for the elderly.

Well, according to Reuters, robots are moving into that arena as well…

Imagine you’re 85, and living alone. Your children are halfway across the country, and you’re widowed. You have a live-in aide – but it’s not human. Your personal robot reminds you to take your medicine, monitors your diet and exercise, plays games with you, and even helps you connect with family members on the Internet.

And robots are even threatening extremely skilled professions such as doctors.  For instance, just check out this excerpt from a Bloomberg article entitled “Doctor Robot Will See You Shortly“…

Johnson & Johnson proposes to replace anesthesiologists during simple procedures such as colonoscopies — not with nurse practitioners, but with machines. Sedasys, which dispenses propofol and monitors a patient automatically, was recently approved for use in healthy adult patients who have no particular risk of complications. Johnson & Johnson will lease the machines to doctor’s offices for $150 per procedure — cleverly set well below the $600 to $2,000 that anesthesiologists usually charge.

And this is just the beginning.  In a previous article, I discussed the groundbreaking study by Dr. Carl Frey and Dr. Michael Osborne of Oxford University which came to the conclusion that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs could be automated within the next 20 years.

47 percent?

That is crazy.

What will the middle class do as their jobs are taken away?

The world that we live in is becoming a radically different place than the one that we grew up in.

The robots are coming, and they are going to take millions of our jobs.

So what do you think of this robot invasion?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

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