Robots Will Not Steal Your Jobs Says Chairman of Japanese Robotics Manufacturer
Robotic workers are already prolific among a number of major industries, but experts are divided on what this new robotic age means for the job prospects of future humans. Many commentators have suggested that the rapid growth in robotics will see cost effective automatons replacing humans in industries ranging from restaurants to every day white collar sectors, but the Chairman and President of one of Japan's largest robotics companies is trying to allay such fears, saying that it will be a long time before humans have to worry about competing with robots on the job market.
"There are many robots under development that are intelligent but can't do anything," said Junji Tsuda of Yaskawa Electronics in an interview with FT. "They're not going to develop on an exponential curve, like computers. It's going to be linear, steady growth."
Cynics might point out that Tsuda has everything to gain from putting public minds at ease about the prospects of robotic domination of the workplace, and his views certainly fly in the face of those put forward by many independent commentators. Many Futurists believe that the manufacturing industry is particularly at risk from automation, but as Justin Reich, a fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, says, the threat could stretch beyond routine construction.
"Robots and AI will increasingly replace routine kinds of work-even the complex routines performed by artisans, factory workers, lawyers, and accountants," says Reich who goes on to suggest that such a situation could lead to an increasing situation of 'haves' and 'have-nots'. "There will be a labor market in the service sector for non-routine tasks that can be performed interchangeably by just about anyone-and these will not pay a living wage-and there will be some new opportunities created for complex non-routine work, but the gains at this top of the labor market will not be offset by losses in the middle and gains of terrible jobs at the bottom. I'm not sure that jobs will disappear altogether, though that seems possible, but the jobs that are left will be lower paying and less secure than those that exist now. The middle is moving to the bottom."
Conversely, Junji Tsudaargues that not only are robots a long way from being able to replace complex human routines, but robots could easily carve out a niche in roles that aren't considered 'human'.
"The brain is developing incredibly fast, both in performance and falling price. The biggest problem is the hands that do the work. Human hands have incredible precision. There are more than 10,000 sensors in here. To put more than 10,000 sensors in a piece of hardware . . .There is still lots of work - inhuman work - that we shouldn't ask people to do. We should roboticize that as soon as possible."
Tsuda's view on the development of robotics is very similar to that of Adam Rutherford, a technical advisor on the upcoming sci-fi drama Ex-Machina, which sees a highly advanced A.I uploaded into a remarkable robotic body. On the prospects of intelligent robot's like Ex-Machina's Ava becoming a reality, Rutherford suggested that, although the intelligent computers may be around the corner, the physical aspects of these sci-fi machines are a long way off.
"Ava's body... is probably decades from realization. Currently, scientists struggle to get robots to do things we find trivially easy: they can drive a car, but not actually get into one. Four billion years of evolution is a hefty head start."
So if the experts are to be believed, if you work with your hands, the chances are you don't need to fear robot invasion of the workforce just yet.