BEELINE TO THE FUTURE: Is Your Job Robot Proof?

Robert Bee
Robert Bee's picture

People don’t take me seriously when I tell them that robots will be taking over many jobs in the next five to ten years, but I keep running into more and more information suggesting I’m right. Businessweek has an article, “The Robot in the Next Cubicle,” which describes a robot that costs $350,000 and can “deliver mail, pour coffee, and recognize its co-worker’s faces” (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_04/b4212069774202.htm). I’m pretty impressed because I’ve actually worked with people who couldn’t do all three of those things, especially at the same time. $350,000 is a lot of money, but the robot doesn’t require health insurance or a pension. It doesn’t get a salary; it doesn’t waste hours socializing or surfing the Internet, and it doesn’t have a bad day because of a fight with the spouse.

In the next five to ten years, robots will be able to do most secretarial work. The article suggests that up to half of all jobs could be taken by robots in 2030, which would be a huge and shocking social transformation.

Businessweek also points out that more than grunt level jobs will be taken over by robots. Robots can handle managerial responsibilities, distributing assignments and evaluating employee performance fairly and rationally, better than a human supervisor. After all, robots will evaluate performance based on accomplishment not on who says the right thing at meetings or kisses up to their supervisor.

Furthermore, researchers have created algorithms allowing robots to figure out when they should provide false information to protect themselves and their company. If robots can lie to investors and regulators, why would you need a human CEO? Maybe robots can create the next financial crisis. And if a robot did cause a financial crisis, would it pass the Turing Test?
The article offers one consolation: someone will need to fix the robots, so an excellent career path would be robot maintenance. You could give the manipulative and dishonest robot CEO a tuneup and oil change as he berates you for being a lazy, worthless human. Although what’s to stop the robots from eventually fixing themselves as well?

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Robert Bee is a freelance writer, and a non-freelance librarian in New Jersey. He can be contacted at rightrob@republibot.com

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