Robot Workers and Human Jobs: About the May-June 2013 FUTURIST
As much as some people may not like it, we’re going to need robots to perform a lot of the tasks for which humans are not available. Populations are aging, and human labor is getting more expensive for manufacturing the things that economies want consumers to keep buying, so a fleet of smaller, smarter, more agile robots could be a boon.
In the May-June 2013 issue of THE FUTURIST, Roomba developer Rodney Brooks introduces an industrial robot called Baxter, the star product of his new company, Rethink Robotics. Its sensor and its intuitive programming make Baxter an ideal co-worker (not a total replacement) for humans on the factory floor, says Brooks. See Robots at Work: Toward a Smarter Factory.
But wait, what about jobs for people? As machines continue to supplant human workers in performing increasingly complex tasks, people will need to find ever more creative ways to remain employable. In fact, creativity itself is one of the “highly human skills” that will keep us in demand in the future economy, says workforce consultant Richard W. Samson.
Businesses, too, can gain a competitive edge by aggressively “off-peopling” the tasks that machines can do more efficiently and affordably, and leveraging their highly human qualities, such as compassion and sense of responsibility. See Highly Human Jobs.
One “knowledge job” that you may be surprised to see automated is that of music mogul. Data analysis of why popular music is popular—its rhythms, pitch, chord progressions, and so on—turns out to be an excellent prognosticator for hit songs, reports tech journalist Christopher Steiner. At the same time, the music business will remain wide open for human innovators and disruptors. See Pop Goes the Algorithm.
A “highly human” economy may mean that the twenty-first century will be the century of the woman. In its survey of global trends, The Futures Company observes that women represent the world’s greatest underdeveloped source of labor and thus an untapped source of economic growth. Despite disparities in women’s social and political status around the world, their continued advances in economic participation and decision making will have an impact on organizations, institutions, and nations. Women are becoming innovative agents of change, and not merely adapters and consumers of the status quo. See Women 2020: Our Selves, Our Worlds, Our Futures.
Cynthia G. Wagner is Editor of THE FUTURIST.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
Free Email Newsletter
To sign up for Futurist Update, our free monthly email newsletter, enter your email in the box below and click Save.
Without the ocean Earth would be a pretty inhospitable place even though we lie within our Sun's Goldilocks Zone. Those of you who live by the ocean can probably figure out why that is the case. You see the ocean is a temperature moderator and a heat transport mechanism that evens out the climate across the planet.
The horror of 298 lives snuffed out by a missile is reverberating around the planet this week after last Thursday's downing of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777. How could missile technology meant to shoot down warplanes get used to destroy a civilian aircraft?
I remain skeptical about the economics of industrial technologies for carbon capture. Almost every project started has been heavily subsidized by government. But for the operators without government subsidy there seems to be no return on investment. First of all, all existing industrial carbon capture technologies are expensive to implement.
On a recent driving trip, my wife and I became immersed in the audio version of one of Tom Clancy’s last novels, titled “Threat Vector.” Without giving away too much of the plot, a Chinese super-geek villain has hatched a plan to hack into our most secure networks and blackmail people with their darkest secrets to subversively cause chaos and disruption for the American government.
If you work for the post office these days then you already have an inkling of what the 21st century will do to many jobs. Texting, email, and mobile connectivity have forever altered the way we communicate. How many of us still write letters on paper and mail them?
Some of you who know me personally know that in my formative years I started studying geophysics in university before a physical accident laid me up for more than a year and I in an epiphany changed my major to Islamic Studies and Medieval History. So I was both a science and history nerd all at the same time. Well nothing has changed.
The government in South Korea is organizing its manufacturing sector along with academics and ministries to tackle and develop 3D printing as an economic opportunity. Rather than rely on the hits and misses of free enterprise, the South Korean leadership is directing all interested players within the country to come up with a roadmap that will lead to innovation in manufacturing and the creation of new jobs.
Edward Cornish has served as the World Future Society’s lead visionary, founder, first President (1966-2004), and Editor of THE FUTURIST magazine (1967-2010). Since stepping away from daily editorial management, he has remained on the WFS Board and has been our Futurist in Residence, contributing book reviews and essays on “Futurists and Their Ideas.” And he’s come to the office faithfully every day.