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Will Robots Reduce or Increase Human Employment Opportunities?


The relationship between technology and employment opportunities has been a subject of debate for decades. As technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace in our country, questions arise regarding its impact on the employment market. People are concerned that artificial intelligence and robots ultimately lead to a reduction in human employment opportunities, or will it create new avenues for labor growth and innovation? In this article, we’ll explore both sides of this complex issue.

Will Technology Reduce or Increase Human Employment Opportunities?

Technology stands as one of the most rapidly advancing domains globally. In under half a century, the realm of high technology has undergone remarkable transformations. Given humanity’s perpetual quest for advancement and growth, it was only natural that the logical progression in technological evolution that our researchers would lead to the creation of robots. 

For many years, robots were the subject of fascination in fictional works, eventually transitioning into the realm of reality through engineers and AI specialists. This transition marked the inception of machines designed to resemble humans. Today, robots are poised to revolutionize our lifestyles and work environments.

People have different opinions about how robots will affect society. Some think robots could take jobs, like how computers did, but new IT and software jobs also emerged. The rise of robotics presents a new opportunity for people to work alongside robots. So, will robots actually replace our jobs?

Technology Is and Has Always Been a Job Creator—Not a Job Destroyer

Vint Cerf, Google’s Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, expressed that historically, technology has often generated more jobs than it has displaced. He emphasized that this situation should be no different, as there will be a demand for the production and servicing of these advanced devices. 

Jonathan Grudin, Principal Researcher at Microsoft, echoed this sentiment, noting that while technology may disrupt existing jobs, it is likely to create new ones. Grudin highlighted that as the world’s population has grown, so too have the number of available jobs, with countless tasks and roles waiting to be fulfilled. This fundamental need for work is unlikely to change.

Michael Kende, an economist from an internet-focused nonprofit, believes that technological advances usually make us more productive without taking away jobs. He thinks this trend will continue, especially with technologies like self-driving cars that can boost productivity without eliminating chauffeurs. While robots might replace some manual work, it’s similar to how automation changed factories in the past. Moreover, creating and maintaining these new tools will lead to more innovations and opportunities. 

Technological Advancements Create New Job Opportunities Even If They Displace Older Industries

Fred Baker, an internet pioneer, says robots and technology change jobs but don’t necessarily reduce them. For example, self-driving cars work well on marked streets but struggle on unmarked ones. They can handle jobs they’re designed for but not unexpected situations like a child running onto the road. Baker expects significant changes but doesn’t foresee everyone retiring by 2025.

John Markoff, a senior writer at the New York Times Science section, expressed that predicting the exact outcome is challenging. He acknowledged that there will likely be significant job displacement in the coming decade, but he also pointed out that 15 years ago, few would have anticipated “search engine optimization” becoming a significant labor category. 

Marjory Blumenthal, a science and technology policy analyst, added to this perspective. She noted that in certain contexts, automated devices like robots may displace more jobs than they create initially. However, they also lead to the emergence of new job categories and trigger secondary and tertiary effects. 

Additionally, there is a shift towards more collaboration between humans and robots, altering the types of work opportunities available. Blumenthal emphasized that the broader impacts are challenging to predict and may not solely result from automation but are interconnected with it. She cited historical economic changes, such as the oil price increases driven by OPEC in the 1970s, to highlight how they can overshadow the effects of technology.

There are Certain Jobs That Only Humans Have the Capacity To Do

David Hughes, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and a pioneer in digital telecommunications, believes that even with automation and AI, human involvement will remain crucial. He compares it to aircraft, where pilots and copilots are necessary. 

Hughes thinks that not all “self-driving” cars will be entirely unmanned because humans are still needed to detect unexpected situations and override automatic driving, especially as long as individually owned cars are on the road. 

Pamela Rutledge, PhD, and Director of the Media Psychology Research Center, emphasizes that there are tasks machines can’t perform, especially those requiring human qualities and soft skills like thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. While AI and robotics can handle repetitive jobs, humans excel in areas where emotional connections and unique human qualities matter. 

Rutledge highlights that technology can facilitate many aspects of our lives, from reminders to connecting with loved ones, but it can’t replace the profoundly human ability to emotionally connect.

Will Robots Cause Problems with Employment?

Many manufacturers are benefiting from new technology like automated production, smart data, the Internet of Things, and machine learning. According to a new study from researchers from Oxford Economics, “Within the next 11 years, there could be a development of 14 million robots put to work in China alone.”

Robots are primarily used in industries that have factory jobs, like the manufacturing industry, automotive industry, and electronics where they excel at manual labor: repetitive tasks and specific functions such as picking, packing, and placing components. Other sectors of the similar employment space will benefit from more robots taking on service jobs

Unlike humans who can experience fatigue, poor posture, and potential health risks, robots work continuously with precision, leading to higher production volumes and better-quality products. However, there is concern that robots may replace some human roles, especially when they can perform labor requiring a human touch, like grinding and polishing uneven objects using sensors.

In a 2020 report by the World Economic Forum, it was suggested that there could be a shift in labor distribution between humans and machines, potentially displacing around 85 million jobs. Nonetheless, the prevailing consensus is that Industry 5.0 will likely create more jobs for humans than it eliminates. 

The new jobs robotic technology created with this shift into robots in the workplace will lead to continued growth and new skills for the next generation of workers. The negative impact predicted will be minuscule compared to the benefits and higher quality of life it can create. 

Technology is causing significant disruptions in the economy, raising concerns about job loss due to automation. However, this situation is not entirely novel; we’ve experienced similar challenges during the Industrial Revolution. 

During previous Industrial Revolutions, workers feared that there would be no place for them in the workforce as machines increasingly took over their roles, making their jobs seem less valuable. Despite these concerns, humans continue to play a vital role in the workforce. 

Machines haven’t replaced us; instead, we’ve harnessed their power to enhance our productivity in various industries. In the long run, the addition of robots in society’s cog can increase human employment opportunities, as robots increase productivity among workers. Employees are now able to focus on other things of higher importance rather than be stuck in dangerous, repetitive work. 

What Will Happen If Robots Replace Humans in Jobs?

The majority of the workforce will find opportunities in the technology sector. While robots may eventually lead to a reduction in human employment, it’s important to note that the robotics industry will also create labor. These machines and innovations have taken over jobs that were once performed by humans, effectively automating these. What are the benefits of such technological advancement and job automation? 

A recent report suggests that from 2017 to 2037, robots will replace approximately 7 million people in various roles but will that really be so detrimental? A group of experts believes that the impact on employment is likely to be minimal due to the relatively short 10-year timeframe, which limits the substantial expansion of automation beyond factory settings. 

David Clark, a senior research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, pointed out the broader trend of automation gutting job opportunities. He anticipates a need for new soft skills in the service industry but doesn’t expect truly autonomous devices within 12 years. Instead, he envisions these devices enhancing human-led service delivery.

Jari Arkko, an Internet expert at Ericsson and chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force, emphasized that some technologies will take a long time to deploy at a significant scale. He highlighted the steady but gradual progress in these fields since the 1960s. 

Christopher Wilkinson, a retired European Union official, EURid.eu board member, and Internet Society leader, predicts that the vast majority of the population will remain unaffected by these technologies for the foreseeable future. 

He views AI and robotics as niche areas with limited applications, primarily in sectors like banking, retail, and transportation. Concerns over errors and liability issues are significant barriers to their widespread adoption in everyday contexts.

Robots reduce the stress an everyday man can experience at work. With automation taking the lead in dull and dangerous work, there will be a world in the future where a regular workplace will have human and robot employees on the regular.

A robot can handle all the dull work and humans can lead a more fruitful and productive life. In a sense, we can utilize these new technologies to alleviate the burdens of workers. Automation of labor has made work completion faster with fewer chances of error. For example, human checkout operators and cashiers are already being replaced with self-checkout counters.

How Does Robotics Affect the Employment Rate?

While we haven’t cracked the code for perpetual motion, the robotics industry is booming and manufacturing robots at an unprecedented rate, and it’s already affecting our lives. Many factories and manufacturers now rely on automation because machines can work without breaks and are excellent at repetitive jobs. As Bill Gates wisely put it, the impact of automation in businesses depends on whether this development is used to enhance efficiency or inefficiency. 

We’re in the future now, robots will work alongside human workers, helping us with labor that isn’t too mentally taxing or dangerous. It allows us to share and improve jobs with the help of these collaborative robots. 

Robots are tools created by humans to make work easier and more efficient through instructions. The main idea is for humans and robots to work together, with humans guiding robots to achieve better results. 

However, it’s important to understand that when it comes to coming up with new ideas, thinking creatively, and solving problems, human employees are essential. Robots can’t do these things because they lack the ability to think and generate innovative ideas.  

Therefore, it’s crucial for humans to decide which tasks a robot should handle to speed up processes and get better results in less time. Robots are best suited for tasks that are repetitive, physically tough, time-consuming, or dangerous. By letting robots handle these tasks, we can reduce the physical and mental strain on human workers, making them more productive and healthy, which benefits the company.

In today’s world, and in the near future, a robot can be part of our society’s regular sights and not a talk or a trending topic. Manufacturing a robot for service has been fast and researchers have been looking for a way to make it cheaper to expand the robot workforce of the world. We can only hope that these technologies will be able to help us far into the future and make a world where we can rely on these robots. 

Sota Takahashi

Sota Takahashi is a Japanese-born electrical engineer. At the age of 18, he moved to Seattle and completed his Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Washington, Seattle. Being a fan of all things tech, he channels his geeky side through this website, and with his wife Linda, shares knowledge about robot pets and how they can be lifelong and advantageous companions for both children and the elderly.

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