By Rishi Biswas, former member of the Hunt Valley Robotics 4-H Club, currently in the 4-H Teen Council Club, 4-H Camp Counselor
This a copy of the prepared speech Rishi gave at this year’s Public Speaking competition.
During the 19th century, a group of self-employed textile workers rebelled against and destroyed efficient textile-producing technologies which they feared would end their business. The group, known today as the Luddites, represents the contemporary fear that automation, due to its efficiency, will replace people in the workforce and cause worldwide unemployment. At the vanguard of this concern are the concepts of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, and robotics, which are replacing people in a variety of fields, due to their cost effectiveness, efficiency, and even their ability to learn. While robots and AI do indeed present this threat, they offer a heap of benefits towards improving human lives, which include providing initiative for education and supplementing the workforce.
ROADMAP: To begin with, we will explore how robots do not already take away all jobs available on the market. Furthermore, we will talk about how robots can augment human ability in some jobs and carry out jobs that are hazardous to people. Finally, we will discuss how the robotic “invasion” of jobs can actually be beneficial to members of the workforce and people everywhere.
Trans 1: Now, before we discuss the advantages of the use of robotics in the workforce, let us take a look at some of the disadvantages.
Due to their lack of emotion, robots will not take away jobs in the market that involve interaction with people, and certain things that people are proficient at. Without emotive capabilities, robots cannot do jobs which involve the human experience. Take sports, for instance. The very essence of sports includes athleticism and winning, which are both hugely integral to the human experience. As proof of this, millions upon millions of fans will flock to their nearest stadium, golf course, or race track to watch their team win (or lose if so be the case), in a nerve-wracking match of grit, muscles, and strategy. And if robots were used as sports announcers, then they would have the capability to detail the events of a game, but they would lack the passion and emotion that make the events so memorable, as their monotone, boring voices are not nearly on par with the adrenaline-filled expression of a sports announcer. In other words, robots would not understand the human joy expressed in a sport. This lack of emotion also limits robots’ ability to have meaningful human interaction. In specific fields such as healthcare, patients might prefer the care of a human, who has empathy. Some fields are also inaccessible because robots do not have human intuition. According to the online technology guide, makeuseof, written on July 2014, Robots can never be repairmen, because they will always have problems which require human intuition to spot, and since robots are incapable of this intuition, they would find it difficult to repair their counterparts. Also stated in the same makeuseof article, robots can never be lawmakers in a society of humans, because their use of pure logic cannot calculate the dispute over fields such as gay marriage or rampant crime. Therefore, robots do not pose such a big threat to people, because they will not take all human jobs available on the market.
Trans 2: While there are jobs that robots cannot do, there are many jobs that now require robots, and for a multitude of reasons.
Robots can augment human jobs in some ways and can do some jobs that are hazardous to human beings, therefore decreasing the danger present to those in that line of work. Through their precision, robots can improve both the quality and efficiency of human work in several fields. One example of such a field is surgery. In robotic surgery, a surgeon would use a computer console to move the instruments attached to robotic arms. Mount Carmel hospital’s own website tells us that robots such as the da Vinci surgical system will enable surgeons to perform remote surgeries from far away, and carry out such surgeries with greater precision and smaller cuts, leading to less pain and decreased blood loss. There are multiple online resources, such as forbes, which tell us that robots can also perform and help people to do dangerous jobs, such as crime fighting. Robots such as those from the company Robotex can help police find criminals without endangering the lives of officers. And robots equipped with certain tools and hardware can perform other hazardous tasks, such as the cleaning of ducts and sewers or the investigation of hazardous environments such as oil spills or nuclear power plants. But the use of robots is most prominent in the military, where they are often used to deactivate bombs or dispose of those that have already exploded, and can be used as aerial reconnaissance vehicles, saving the lives of both pilots and bomb technicians.
Trans 3: While robots are often used to supplement human performance, there are nonetheless some jobs that robots take over entirely.
Through their efficiency and cost effectiveness, robots and AI can provide numerous advantages for people utilizing robotics. The first advantage of having robots in the workforce are that they can improve the prosperity of companies by doing work more resourcefully than human beings. Robots, being unemotional and mechanical, as previously discussed, can do tedious tasks without the setbacks that humans face, such as distraction or boredom, and without any distractions, robots will never take breaks, never go on strike, and never ask for a raise. Factory work, consisting of such tedious jobs, is one of the great opportunities for robots. According to the website how stuff works, the robot known as Unimate has already taken a big role on the automobile production line in the General Motors factories. Amazon fulfillment centers are also testing robots that quickly move entire shelves of products, delivering them to employees who package the items for shipment, while outmatching their human counterparts, and optimizing the delivery process, as discussed in an article for the Chicago tribune. The concept of AI is also making its way into the workforce. As stated by Vivian Giang on the website fastcompany, in 2014 the University of Birmingham built the first ever Robot security guard, named Bob. While not up to standards with human guards, Bob can ask for directions when lost, or recharge his battery when it is low. This means that Bob can learn from other humans without direct programmer input. And the infamous AI machine from jeopardy, known as Watson, is also making his mark on the workforce. Watson is a supercomputer made by the tech giant IBM that can be used for various jobs. For example, according to the 60 minutes episode titled Artificial Intelligence, Watson recently worked on a case of cancer and provided the correct treatment for the patient, after a team of doctors failed to do so. That same team of doctors, now working with Watson’s attentive eye, could successfully diagnose the patient’s form of cancer and provide the correct treatment. And all of these examples clearly demonstrate how robots and AI can do some jobs better than humans. And that leaves most people asking: “Well, what is going to happen to us?” First, before we panic, we should consider that robotics is only an innovation, and in the past, innovations have been beneficial to people as well as the economy. For example, the printing press was a very big innovation in the literature industry, and without it, modern publishing companies would not exist; also literature would not be as widespread or popular as it is now. Another prominent example is agriculture. In 1870, statistics from the website tech crunch shows that agriculture employed 80-90% of the population, but with today’s advancements, employs only 1%, freeing up space for people to do other things. Similarly, with robotics, there will certainly be displacement, but like before, it will free up space for other jobs which will accommodate to the robot workforce, such as engineers or repairmen. However, these jobs require higher education, and those who are replaced, such as factory workers or hotel attendants, may not have advanced degrees. But this is where economical intelligence comes in. Companies and firms that no longer have to pay their employees can allocate money towards training programs, which can teach those replaced employees how to repair robots that are working for the company. Another proactive measure would be to improve children’s education to cover more STEM related subjects to prepare them for the ever-evolving workforce. In short, robots will not eliminate the workforce, but rather change and specialize it.
We have discussed the disadvantages of robots, like how they do not show emotion or how they cannot comprehend the human mind. We have have covered how robots can complement human performance, and how, with the full implementation of robotics, that we can ensure the safety of others. And finally, we have noted how the additional revenue gained by a company can be used to retrain employees to ensure proper operation of the robot workforce. We should not fear robots, but instead, appreciate and value the innovations that come from their use.