Be it Superstar Rajinikanth’s film ‘Robot’ or Shahrukh khan’s film ‘Ra.one’ and the several other films that have glorified the role of machines and robots, the world has already seen a glimpse of how useful these robots can be. But these robots carry a massive threat to human labor.
Software automation and artificial intelligence
With the acceleration in capabilities of software automation and artificial intelligence (AI) driven predictive algorithms, a few decades from now, the everyday human workforce faces a fear of extinction.Martin Ford in his latest book The Rise of the Robots-Technology and the Threat of Mass Employment suggests that “routine” and “predictable” jobs will be most affected. He is firmly of the view that accelerating technology may disrupt our entire system to the point where a fundamental restructuring may be required if prosperity is to continue.
Robots have already started to take over the mundane tasks in many leading companies all over the world. They have entered into agriculture, manufacturing and even the services sector. Tesla motors’ new factory in Fremont, California, uses 160 highly flexible robots to assemble about 400 cars per week. Momentum machine Inc.’s device is capable of producing about 360 hamburgers per hour, and can toast, slice and add ingredients like tomatoes, onions and pickles after the order is placed.
Japan’s Kura Sushi, a 262 restaurant chain, has robots that can make sushi and they also have conveyor belts replacing waiters. The company was thus able to cut down its costs to just 1$ per sushi. Research suggests that in the near future a robot will be able to move a box every second while it takes a human being around six seconds to complete the same task. Thus a company has every incentive to invest in robots as it can lead to massive profits. Robots will never go on strike, they don’t demand a pay raise, and all they require is adequate maintenance, spare parts, energy. They work overtime too.
So what does the future hold for us if robots are preferred over humans?
From the economics point of you, a machine does not go out and consume, so there will be deficient demand. This may lead to even further unemployment, and it may also threaten those jobs that are not directly affected by automation. Secondly, income from capital will be concentrated in the hands of a few capitalists. This tiny elite group can also not keep purchasing continuously, thus creating a 1930’s like scenario of excess goods with no buyers.
Only jobs that involve dexterity, mobility, creativity and human interaction will be least susceptible to automation. The table below published in the economist shows the jobs that are most likely to get affected by computerisation in the next two decades.
One view that of futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil does not completely agree with Martin Ford and believes that humans will inevitably merge with the machines of the future, and will be augmented with brain implants that dramatically enhance intelligence. 🙂 This will at least create a more level playing field for humans, but the “routine” jobs will certainly be taken over. Let’s hope our generation is among the beneficiaries.
But again, will we be able to afford these implants?