Robots have been in the workforce for decades now. Since the sixties, robotics have been used in factories for heavy lifting and to optimize production. Since that time, artificial intelligence is becoming smarter. As they slowly moved into the workplace, robots and computers are gaining even more skills, as they push out their human equivalents. More and more scientists and engineers believe that this exponential growth of robot intelligence could lead to all of our jobs potentially being in limbo.
Oxford University released a study claiming that over the next two decades, 35 percent of prevailing jobs are at risk to robots. A Bloomberg report suggests robots have the potential to replace up to half of US workers within the next 10 to 20 years.
One could argue that a computer itself is an intelligent bot. They can formulate extensive mathematical equations in seconds, which would otherwise take some mathematicians hours, days, possibly even years to solve. Computers are even starting to write better software quicker and more efficiently than computer engineers. A few years ago, IBM created a supercomputer named Watson, which connected directly to the internet. They put it on Jeopardy to play against the best players to ever play the game, and it easily won by a substantial amount.
Ray Kurzweil is a computer scientist, inventor and futurist. He believes we are on a path in which computing power will eventually surpass human intelligence. When this happens, he figures we will be able to download our consciousness into a computer. This is set to happen by 2045, at which point we will be able to live for eternity through computers.
Robotics has already been used to replace limbs on people, such as arms or legs. They are even getting better than actual human limbs. With 3D printing taking off, along with huge biological advancements, one’s own cells can even be used to re-create pretty well any organ.
Are we on a path to becoming robots? Could this be why humans are here? Is this what will push the human race to advance and evolve into the next type of species? Will this journey force humans completely out of the workforce? Only time will tell.
Here are the jobs most at risk in the near future…
10. Taxi Drivers/Delivery People
With the rise of autonomous vehicles, it seems inevitable that taxi drivers will soon no longer be needed. Companies such as Uber and Lyft have already dramatically damaged the standard taxi business. Not only are taxi drivers at risk, but any delivery person is as well. Everyone from restaurant delivery drivers to Fedex delivery men are going to lose jobs to robots. The early days of self-driving cars are already upon us, and so far Tesla’s seem to be winning that race.
Statistics indicate around 1.3 million people die in car crashes yearly, not to mention the 20-50 million injured in car accidents each year. Self-driving vehicles will save millions of lives and immensely drive down medical costs.
9. Factory Workers
In 1979, in a Ford Motor company factory out of Michigan, a man was killed by a robotic arm. That was less than 20 years after the first robots were introduced. Since the first robots were used in factories they have been rapidly evolving and they’re constantly pushing out humans as they easily do a better, faster job. We have a wide variety of machines in factories that produce nearly everything we use in our day-to-day lives. As robotic technology continues to advance, they will soon kill the remaining human factory jobs.
8. Store Clerks
Take an ATM machine. Because of them, we do not have to go see a bank teller to make a transaction anymore. To go even further, we now see self-checkout machines in places like Wal-Mart and other stores, which take away the jobs of check-out clerks. You could literally extend this to any type of store. Clerks would become robots and humans would no longer be necessary to do the job. With this in place, any store could remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as robots do not need breaks and that would be their home.
When it comes to technology, Asian countries always seem to be ahead of the game. In some restaurants in Japan and China, they are already using robots as waiters, one of them being in Harbin, Heilongjiang, a province in China. Not only do they have 20 robots that bring you food, they also cook noodles and dumplings for customers. As one enters the restaurant, the robots greet you with a friendly hello, and says, “welcome to the Robot Restaurant.” As this trend of robot waiters gains more popularity, it most likely won’t be long before it finds its way over to the western world, and puts our restaurant jobs in jeopardy. McDonald’s has even begun implementing ordering terminals which are reducing the need for cashiers in their restaurants.
Soon we may see machines capable of writing a journalistic story, faster and more accurately than any person can. They have already tested software that specializes in machine-generated stories, invented by Northwestern University. The Big Ten Network is an early customer of this. They use it for sports coverage such as baseball. They said it is far cheaper than using people. After a game the score keepers just submits the data, and the computer fires out a story in minutes.
At this rate, with this type of software, all stories journalists cover may sooner or later be written by computers instead of humans.
Imagine a world where you don’t need to take out a second mortgage on your home to be able to afford a lawyer. As most of us one day will likely need a lawyer, even if it is just for a simple signature to buy a house, and it can get pretty pricy to hire one. They can cost hundreds of dollars an hour. A California-based company called Blackstone produced software that analyzed 1.5 million legal documents for less than $100,000, that otherwise would have cost hundreds of dollars per document. As this software gains more traction, it will drive legal prices even lower, and at the same time you won’t have to sell a kidney to hire a team of lawyers.
Doctors are already using sophisticated machines to perform highly complex surgeries. And in some cases, the doctor does not even have to be in the same room as the patient, they can be halfway around the world. When you get a blood test, they use machines to see if there is anything wrong with you. As this technology keeps getting better, the use of doctors in certain fields will no longer be necessary.
Picture going into a doctor’s office, describing to the robot your symptoms, and maybe giving a quick blood sample or other test, and you instantly get a diagnosis. This type of situation may sound like a science fiction Star Trek type scenario, but in reality, it does not seem too far from what the future may bring.
Just like our doctor scenario, we may not be too far away from going to get a prescription, and seeing a robot behind the counter. If we used machines to fill prescriptions, it could cut any errors that prevent you from getting our proper medication. There is already a medical center in the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) that uses an automated robot-controlled pharmacy in two of their hospitals. Computers electronically receive medication prescriptions from the doctors or pharmacists. From there, robots gather, pack and dispense medication doses. It just scans a barcode, and the machine gathers the necessary pills together. A year after the system launched, they had prepared around 350,000 doses of meds, with zero errors. This technology proves that the use of a human being will most likely become obsolete in the pharmacy world.
The way things are going, it looks like many armies are headed in the direction of having robots in place of humans on the battlefield. We see this already taking place with the rise of drone technology and other types of machinery during combat missions.
They already used robots in Iraq to open doors and drag out bodies. It has a GPS system integrated in its technology, so it can differentiate between a no-fire and fire zone. It is called MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System), invented by Foster-Miller, and it is also strapped with all sorts of weapons like machine guns and grenade launchers.
If we are increasingly using robots to fight our battles for us, it kind of seems pointless to be fighting in these wars in the first place. If we just have robots fighting each other, it kind of sounds like a huge waste of resources.
One of the biggest childhood dreams is to fly into space and be called an astronaut. We have sure come a long way since the first airplane flight. As we continue our growth with the advancements of machines, it helps us to get a better understanding of the space above us. It might not be long before we just send intelligent machines into space to do our work.
Take NASA’s and General Motors’ newest robot called Robonaut2. They gave it a whole bunch of sensors along with five-finger hands, for the purpose of helping humans in everyday simple space operatives. NASA believes it won’t be long before this technology is assisting in space walks to make repairs and carry out a variety of scientific work. This technology will most likely one day take over fully for their human counterparts.
References: wired.com, dailymail.co.uk, ucsf.edu, asirt.org