Working Relationship with Robots Will Lead to New Opportunities

February 6, 2013

Implementing automation allows companies to be more — to be more productive, to be more globally competitive, to be more efficient. Reflecting on the history of technology and economy, we know that automation is a dynamic force in industry. Kevin Kelly predicts a future of automation that will surprise us — technology that performs jobs we never knew needed doing and that gives us opportunities we are just beginning to understand.

Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs
by Kevin Kelly

That may be true of making stuff, but a lot of jobs left in the world for humans are service jobs. I ask Brooks to walk with me through a local McDonald’s and point out the jobs that his kind of robots can replace. He demurs and suggests it might be 30 years before robots will cook for us. “In a fast food place you’re not doing the same task very long. You’re always changing things on the fly, so you need special solutions. We are not trying to sell a specific solution. We are building a general-purpose machine that other workers can set up themselves and work alongside.” And once we can cowork with robots right next to us, it’s inevitable that our tasks will bleed together, and soon our old work will become theirs—and our new work will become something we can hardly imagine.

To understand how robot replacement will happen, it’s useful to break down our relationship with robots into four categories, as summed up in this chart:

The rows indicate whether robots will take over existing jobs or make new ones, and the columns indicate whether these jobs seem (at first) like jobs for humans or for machines. […]

We need to let robots take over. They will do jobs we have been doing, and do them much better than we can. They will do jobs we can’t do at all. They will do jobs we never imagined even needed to be done. And they will help us discover new jobs for ourselves, new tasks that expand who we are. They will let us focus on becoming more human than we were.

Read the full article at Wired. What do you think of Kelly’s conclusions? What new tasks do you see us delegating to automation? How will the proliferation of robotics expand our own capabilities?