Science Non-Fiction

Rise of the machines for real

A set of six-axis robots used for welding.

A set of six-axis robots used for welding. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You don’t have to be smart to use either a smart phone or smart TV. But it doesn’t hurt.

Robots are coming to take our jobs. Automobile assembly-line worker jobs will be gone within 10 years if not sooner. They’re already mostly gone in Japan.

Robots don’t get tired. They just require periodic maintenance. I read somewhere that automobile assembly line robots in Japan work 3 weeks straight, 24/7, only coming offline for periodic maintenance. That is incredible up time and humans should take note.

Eventually no one’s job will be safe. There are opportunities for humans to create new roles for themselves that will involve the monitoring and implementation of robot workers. There will also (hopefully) always be something that humans can do that robots can’t. In the not so distant future, however, that will require our ability to out-think those that would be subservient to us.

A swarm of robots in the Open-source micro-rob...

A swarm of robots in the Open-source micro-robotic project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sales people have the mistaken notion that their jobs are safe from robotic intervention. This thinking arises out of feeling that robots can’t create, foster, nurture and engender relationships with humans like humans can.

This line of thinking is most likely false because people who have this opinion on the limitations of robot workers, fail to wrap their heads around just how capable artificial intelligence is, and will become. There is already evidence in laboratories around the world that robots, who can learn at much higher rates than humans, are beginning to scratch the surface of how humans experience things like emotions and feelings—the barrier that salespeople believe robots can never breach.

Emotional intelligence is a term used to describe a human worker’s ability to anticipate, gauge and react to the emotional states of workers around, and with them, with the goal of increasing productivity by virtue of these optimal employee interactions. It is being taught in workshops across the country. It will eventually be learned and taught by robots, too.

English: A scene from R.U.R., showing three ro...

English: A scene from R.U.R., showing three robots. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once robots have the ability to know what human emotions and feelings are, the sky is the limit. They will be able to carry on conversations that engage, interest and provide benefit to those they are speaking with. Isn’t this what good sales people are able to do in the first place?

As Jackson Browne once sang in one of his songs, “Maybe people only ask you how you’re doing ‘cause it’s easier than letting on how little they could care.” Could robots one day sound more genuine than humans when they ask, “How’re you doin’?” I wouldn’t bet against it.

I once railed against the slimy practice of offshoring and outsourcing. Well, robots are the next evolution of outsourcing and offshoring. Robots will be able to produce more than skilled workers paid cheaply to perform administrative work overseas, who were able to produce more and less costly than the United States workers who lost their jobs to them.

Labor costs are continually looked at by business leaders. There is always push over how labor costs can be lowered. Robots are the next labor revolution and humans should be concerned, but not frightened altogether.

Ford assembly line, 1913.

Ford assembly line, 1913. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are the early days of this movement. We enjoy our smart phones and smart TV’s as we each grow less smart as we use them. The irony is that as we grow dumb, smart TV’s become smarter the more we use them. They learn our habits and try to please us by giving us what we want to look at.

Smart phones will probably evolve similarly. We are already marketed to, based on how we use our smart phones. Smart phones are learning more about us than we are about them. The fact is, most of us don’t even use all of our device’s capabilities. It makes me wonder, “Who’s using who?”

If robots were my primary audience, this column would be much longer today. But, since humans are my primary audience, I have to keep this brief. Humans spend an average of 5 minutes on this site at any given time. I suspect robots will eventually spend that much time here as well, the main difference being they will be able to digest the entire content of hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley at in that length of time.

BigDog robots trot around in the shadow of an ...

BigDog robots trot around in the shadow of an MV-22 Osprey. BigDog is a dynamically stable quadruped robot created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics with Foster Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Laugh if you like. But some are already here and the rest are on their way. And remember, they don’t get tired. You’ve been forewarned, but I suspect you will regard their arrival as an innocuous and necessary occurrence. I hope you’re right.


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