Image by ricardodiaz11
Now, I don’t know about you, but as a child, I knew what to expect in the future. Through comics, art, film and television, there was one undeniable fact: We would have robots. Robots cleaning the streets, robots fighting our wars, robots doing the dishes. Some warned us of imminent danger, others helped us understand what it was that those weird wobbly space things were trying to say to us.
And yet, here we are. Living in a future world of smartphones, free Wi-Fi, hybrid cars and sushi bars and we still don’t have robots to do our dirty work for us.
But Robots Do Exist, I’ve Seen Them
Robots exist today as remote eyes, ears and hands for their human operators. While a huge range of automated robots currently slave away in factories across the globe, other machines take the place of humans in order to preserve life. Bomb disposal robots and fearsome combat drones get the most media coverage, though several projects (such as Boston Dynamic’s so-cool-it-must-be-fictional Petman project) exist in order to test safety equipment.
Is That All They Can Do?
The field of robotics has, even in my lifetime, taken leaps and bounds toward being taken more seriously. The latest in a long line of technical advancements comes from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where boffins have developed ‘Roboy’ - a working machine with face recognition software, an artificial skeleton and - incredibly - human-like tendons.
The point of this? By making a robot in our image, we are able to make a machine that can interact with our environment. By making a robot able to walk, we are inviting it to enter our homes and places of work. By giving it arms, we are allowing it to physically touch and help us. The next step is artificial intelligence, allowing it to learn and communicate.
So It Won’t Be Long, Then?
There is, of course, no way to predict what will happen in the future, but by looking at the evidence, we are undeniably on the verge of a robot revolution. Experts claim that within thirty years robots will be commonplace. But it comes at a cost.
Unemployment continues to be a huge problem, with young people finding an increasingly tight and specific job market on the horizon. As robots will, essentially, be computers-on-legs, job roles such as data entry, accounting, IT support and telesales will be virtually unheard of. And if robots end up more like R2-D2, well, you might as well let them get on with the hoovering. I’m sure the unemployed cleaners will love it.
However, in this era of unstable economies and with companies cutting costs at every opportunity, is it any wonder that having machines in the workplace is starting to appear more and more reasonable? Robots will never have a day off sick. It will never ask for holiday. Maternity leave? That’s right out. You’re looking at the perfect employee, mindless and efficient. And with minimum wage rising all the time, a perfect option for the business with a tight budget.
Sure, the socio-economic effects may be devastating, but let’s not end on a downer. Not everyone will be able to afford robots in the workplace. And what happens when the machines break down? Humanity may be reduced to operating small business IT support companies, but at least we’ll have work! After all, when your techno-worker starts vomiting error messages, you’ll be sure a kind voice on the end of the phone will be there to fix it.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Adam Tyler has been described as enthusiastic, outgoing and an all round bit of scruff. He is a self employed copywriter, and has more recently been working on a number of projects including spies, giant robots and catching the flu. He writes for Arc IT.