Are Robots About To Steal Our Jobs? Not So Fast

The concept of robots have been around for centuries, but it is only in the last few decades that we realized how very possible it actually is to produce these intricate systems. From ASIMO to Roomba Vacuum Cleaners, robots have been one of the greatest manifestations of human intelligence and ingenuity. However, the advent of the robots has been limited by human fears and worries – some rational, some not – about the technology, and those fears are not going away very soon.

One of the biggest worries that have been associated with robots is human employment or the resulting lack thereof when robots become a mainstream part of our society. It is an undeniable fact that robots have taken over a few types of jobs in the past – mostly factory work and menial tasks – from human beings who refuse to do them any longer. However, this shift in human-to-robot employment did not make much news until this year, when Bill Gates told an audience in Washington D.C. that he believed robots are about to take jobs from human beings.

“Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… it’s progressing. Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set… 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

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For a small number of people, that imagery is an exciting new feature of the future. However, for most of us who aren’t nearly as affluent as Gates, the statement is extremely frightening. Drivers, waiters and nurses aren’t exactly pursuing lucrative careers, and the “threat” that they will be replaced by chips and wires in 20 years is a terrifying image for those who actually hold those jobs.

However, experts in the field say people shouldn’t worry. Although phys.org says advancements in artificial intelligence would actually lead to the development of more robots who are able to do everyday human tasks, it also says it’s unlikely for them to take our spot in the job market.

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How can we be so sure? David Hummels, a professor of economics at Purdue University, says that humans remain to have an important advantage over our aluminum-y counterparts. We are experts in something robots are still struggling to figure out – the ability to respond to other humans. In fact, we have hundreds of thousands of years of this particular advantage over robots, and we have evolution to thank for it. Hummels says, “We have evolved over 100,000 years to be exquisitely perceptive to visual and aural cues from other people around us, which is an important skill that machines may never be able to match.”

You might not be able to do complex math in mere milliseconds, but you can be assured you can talk better, feel better, and understand other human beings better than any advanced robot present today.

[Images from 33rdsquare.com and Justin Morgan/Flickr]