Our Future is Robotics
“The benefits of having robots could vastly outweigh the problems.” This quote by Rodney Brooks puts into perspective what many people are afraid of when it comes to the future of robotics. Many are afraid that robotics and automation may start to consume jobs performed by human beings, or that the investment and cost of maintenance will outweigh the benefits. Indeed, some of these issues can seem a bit foggy as we wait for time to tell the whole store. Putting a pin in those concerns for a moment, though, the future of robotics has such a very bright and opportunistic outlook. It can be exciting and scary at the same time to think about how many different parts of your life could soon be impacted by robots in some way. In our business, we generally focus on how they will play a role from an industrial standpoint. At the moment industrial manufacturing is the largest consumer of robotics on the planet. However, robots will soon be integrated into each of our daily lives sooner rather than later. From using your Roomba to vacuum your floors to receiving your Amazon package from a delivery robot named Scout, robots are starting to cover all parts of human interaction and services.
A Growing Presence
Robotics could quickly start to influence many elements of our lives. When it comes to new products and services, humans crave things like efficiency, precision, and consistency. These are the qualities that define the best products and services purchased every day. Robots tend to play pretty well in the arenas of efficiency, precision, and consistency. In fact, one of the reasons robots are becoming so popular in automation and industry is their ability to repeatedly accomplish tasks with precision and accuracy, without needing sick days or vacation. At the end of the day, this means lower cost to produce, and in a competitive market, lower cost to the consumer. As the technology becomes more abundant, manufacturing processes and best practices get more refined and abundant as well, which drives the cost of ownership down. Pretty soon (and actually, it’s happening already) a homeowner can feasibly afford to have an industrial robot in their garage to do…well, whatever it is they want a robot to do. After that, why not put a robot in the kitchen? Couldn’t we all use a hand with the dishes? Dinner? Cleaning up? The longest journeys in history are traveled one step at a time. If you take a look backwards, you might be surprised at how many footsteps are already in the sand.
Will they work for us, or instead of us?
We can’t deny that robots are targeting jobs currently performed by humans. They aren’t generally going after just any job, though. A lot of the jobs targeted for robotic use are very repetitive and laborious. Not only are these jobs generally not very attractive to the workforce, they are prone to repetitive injury and burnout. Sure, they are jobs with paying wages. But what if instead of putting a robot in place and firing the human currently performing that job, we put the robot in place and then move that person to a job that more readily challenges their skill level wits? This doesn’t line up with the fear factor often pushed in the general media when it comes to robots, but it’s what actually happens in reality. Robots don’t really replace people; they just move them to other – usually better – jobs. Losing one’s job to a robot is certainly reason for apprehension. However, we must also have to remember that it’s just not that easy to replace a human with a single-minded machine. As smart as robots have gotten, they focus on and complete only the task that they are wired to do. That’s it. They only know exactly what you tell them. This is certainly a stark contract from humans who are creative, decisive, and social. You tell me which you’d rather have making critical decisions and which you would rather have picking up a box and putting on a pallet.
An Exciting Future
After all is said and done, we are headed down a path where robots are the future of automation and many other jobs. From both an economic and productivity standpoint they make so much sense that we can’t afford to look the other way. Innovation has shaped our world into what it is today and this is just another step down that same road. Rather than cutting jobs, we are actually improving jobs. It’s an exciting proposition to think that your next co-worker may not even be human.