Imagine an industrious woman working in a nail factory. She lives pay check to pay check, just barely getting her and her children by. She works hard every day but is quite happy with her life. One day, this life of hers is dashed away, as she is let go because the factory upgrades its infrastructure and now her job is done by a more efficient robot. Unfortunately, the woman has no other skills to fall back on. With no college degree, work is difficult to find, and the woman is out of options. Now imagine a successful financial advisor. He lives in the suburbs, has a beautiful wife, a nice car, and a nice retirement plan all laid out before him. Except one day, his company lays him and several of his coworkers off because his job is taken by an AI that can do many more times the work than they can. The man does have a college degree; however, it is in finance, which is no longer a viable option for him. His and his family’s future suddenly does not look so bright. Finally, imagine a young high schooler with a fresh new license and ready to work their first job. She wants to save money for college and does not want to incur debt by taking out a loan. She applies for a job at the local fast-food restaurant. She works there for several months, earning some, but not enough money to afford to go to college. Her job is replaced by an automated system designed to be both user-friendly, efficient, and devoid of the need for any human labor. This change has taken place in most fast food restaurants in the area. The student now faces the challenge of finding a new job with her limited skills, having to take out expensive student loans, or simply not going to college at all. Outside of the realm of imagination, an old Holocaust survivor runs a small coffee shop in a small town in Southern Carolina. She has built a life for herself when her old one was ripped out of her hands. However, her source of income is stripped away “…by the lucrative modernity offered at a local Starbucks” (Stark) and she is left with nothing.
All these people were affected by what is called the robotic revolution. They were caught flatfooted and unprepared. Their lives were turned upside down and, in some cases, ruined by the natural progression of technology. The robotic revolution will bring these few stories into reality and will bring about a new age of automation and artificial intelligence.
The robotic revolution is not the imminent enslavement of our artificial masters. It is not an apocalypse. Rather it is a fundamental shift from a human-labor based workforce to one made of metal. The robotic revolution is also known as the “…Second Machine Age” (Wohl) referencing the coming prevalence of machines in the workforce. Another major component of the robotic revolution is artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence, or AI, is defined as the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human skills, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.
There are many different types of jobs in danger of being replaced in the next couple of decades. Manual labor jobs such as taxi-services, construction, and fast-food are at high risk. Other types of careers such as accountants, financial advisors, lawyers, and even some doctors are currently becoming obsolete (Wohl). It is estimated by the LA Times that roughly one-third of US jobs alone will be lost “…by the early 2030s” (Masunaga). Outside of the United States, it is estimated that thirty percent of jobs are at risk in Britain, thirty-five percent in Germany, and twenty-one percent in Japan (Masunaga). The Guardian predicts that “…this revolution could leave up to 35% of all workers in the UK, and 47% of those in the US, at risk of being displaced by technology over the next 20 years…” (Stewart). These predictions are based off the current trend in advancements and usage of current robotics and AI. They do not cover any major breakthroughs or unexpected forays into different areas of the workforce.
Most of society believes the revolution is inevitable. In fact, a great number of people also welcome it because of the increase in conveniences these changes will bring. It is thought that the robotic revolution will not be as jarring as previous technological revolutions because society is already heavily inundated with technology. New innovations are constantly developed and have become the norm and expectation as our society continues to advance.
There are people who believe the robotic revolution will be a detriment to our society and that the overwhelming loss of jobs will be irrevocable. They believe current education will not be enough to equip people to find other jobs once theirs have been replaced. Conversely, there are those that believe adaptation will occur. They think that there will be a period of struggle where society finds new avenues of employment. However, this period will eventually end just as it did for the Industrial Revolution and all others after it. They believe that new jobs will arise, and that it will merely take some time of innovation and adaption to discover them.
The robotic revolution, good or bad, will save every area of the workforce it affects billions of dollars. The most substantial amount of saved money will come from the manufacturing and manual labor industries. Initially, the investment for a robotic worker is quite high, with one robot costing $250,000 plus annual fees of roughly $10,000 per year. Despite this steep price tag, robotic workers pay for themselves quickly. This is because a robotic worker will pay for itself multitudes of times in comparison to a more inefficient human worker. One industrial robot costs roughly $250,000, with annual fees of roughly $10,000. Despite the high initial cost, the robotic worker will pay for itself relatively quickly. In places such as Germany and the United States, an industrial robot “will break even in under one year” (Conway). In other areas of the world, this rate is slightly slower, but still much more efficient than human labor. The average lifespan of an industrial robot is about twelve years, which means one robot will pay for itself roughly twelve times in the amount of labor that it does. This efficiency is further increased by the lack of a need for training, no leave required, no medical needs or risk of injury, and the ability to work in environments inhospitable to humans (Conway). An example of this is a robot produced by KUKA Robotics that is extremely heat resistant and can work in environments entirely too hot for humans to handle (Conway).
In the coming years, a multitude of jobs will be taken by a more efficient, more powerful, cheaper workforce and will have ill-effects on the world as a whole. Robots will become a major contender in the working world, as positions are replaced in the services, finances, and manual labor sectors.
Robots will continue to take away jobs in the services field. Fast food chains, for example, are rapidly undergoing a technological revolution, with McDonald’s leading the charge. An example of this lies in heavily urbanized and advanced New York. The McDonald’s located “…on the corner of Third Avenue and 58th Street…” (Shewan) is completely automated, with one machine taking up the numerous jobs the fast food chain would have normally provided. The article reads: “Inside…hungry patrons are welcomed not by a cashier waiting to take their order, but by a “Create Your Taste” kiosk – an automated touch-screen system that allows customers to create their own burgers without interacting with another human being” (Shewan).
Another major fast-food chain implementing automation into their restaurants is Wendy’s. They have made many of the same changes that McDonald’s is currently undertaking. Panera Bread, less of a fast-food chain, is also upgrading some of their restaurants with AI technology.
One of the driving reasons behind this move towards robots is the campaign in many parts of America towards a $15-dollar minimum wage. This change, regardless of robotic intervention, would at the very least pose a huge drop in revenue for companies. It could also lead to bankruptcy for some smaller, less affluent businesses. “With minimum wages rising — to $15 in some parts of the country, including California — many chains are looking at ways to slash labor costs” (Li). Robots, while their initial cost is high, provide a more long-term, cost-effective alternative to the ever-growing expense of manual labor.
Restaurants are also offering more incentive for people to order online or through a robot, further reducing the need for employees. There are often benefits given to customers who take advantage of the technology provided. “’You will see customers deliberately going to those kiosks directly, bypassing lines,’ Trimm said during the company’s investor day Feb. 16. ‘Some customers clearly prefer to use the kiosks’” (Li).
As more people are being indoctrinated to technology being a part of their daily lives, copious amounts of lucrative opportunity arises to take away the need for any sort of human interaction in places like restaurants. “’Young customers … like to control the whole ordering process,’ [Lauren] Hallow said. ‘They have the chance to go quickly if they want to, or they can linger and see what the choices are without a cashier waiting’” (Li). The obvious increased dependence and comfort of the younger generations on technology will help ease arrival of the age of the robot.
Robots are taking and will continue to take away jobs in the finance market. College degrees in finance, management, accounting, and economics are some of the most popular majors in schools across the world. This is because of the high-availability of jobs that come with a degree in these fields of study. However, these jobs require a skillset that is easily and rapidly becoming replaceable by more efficient artificial intelligence. An article on The Conversation says that, “…the banking and finance industry is principally built on processing information, and some of its key operations, like passbook updating or cash deposit, are already highly digitized” (Alam and Kendall). Already the finance industry is made much simpler by limited robotic influence. As this influence grows, the need for human labor will lessen significantly. In fact, “…the growing dominance of AI in the banking sector that …within the next three years…will become the primary way banks interact with their customers” (Alam and Kendall). Not only will customer interaction change, but AI will also take away jobs related to investment strategy. “Advisory bots are allowing companies to evaluate deals, investments, and strategy in a fraction of the time it takes today’s quantitative analysts to do so using traditional statistical tools,” (Alam and Kendall).
J.P. Morgan, the most affluent banking company in the United States, has started the process of turning to AI to help with some of the endlessly tedious jobs that they employ thousands of people to spend countless hours on every year. An article on Futurism says that “Some of those employees are lawyers and loan officers who spend a total of 360,000 hours each year tackling a slew of rather mundane tasks, such as interpreting commercial-loan agreements. Now, the company has managed to cut the time spent on this work down to a matter of seconds using machine learning,” (Galeon and Houser). The program used by J.P. Morgan is called COIN, short for Contract Intelligence. COIN has also improved the accuracy of its loan-servicing, eliminating the pesky human error that pervades the workforce. The article states that “According to the program’s designers, these mistakes stemmed from human error in interpreting 12,000 new wholesale contracts every year,” (Galeon and Houser).
In addition to replacing jobs in the financial sector, robots are already having a large impact upon the manual labor industry. Construction, for example, is presently already undergoing vast amounts of automation, as it moves toward changes that will insure that tasks are performed more quickly and efficiently. In the past years, numerous machines have taken the place of people in the designing and building of different structures and roads across the world. This change has come gradually enough that people have not had many concerns regarding job security. However, a new innovation originating in Australia has made a breakthrough in automation that will take away many positions in the near future. “…Australian company Fastbrick Robots has developed a robot, the Hadrian X, that can lay 1000 standard bricks in an hour – a task that would take two human bricklayers the better part of a day or longer to complete,” (Shewan).
The textile, clothing, and footwear industry is facing large amounts of job insecurity in the coming years, particularly in the areas around Southeastern Asia. Southeastern Asia’s income relies mainly on cheap manual labor, the majority of its exports coming from the aforementioned industries. As advancements in automation are made, this labor force is slowly becoming obsolete, leaving the unskilled workers bereft of other jobs.
An article on Quartz discusses the possible effects the robot revolution will have on this region of the world. Over nine million jobs would be affected by the gradual change to robotics (Bain). “In Vietnam, the ILO report documents, one clothing manufacturer that invested in automated cutting machines last year was able to replace 15 workers for each machine. In 18 months, it will prove more cost-effective than continuing to employ the workers. Fewer workers are needed, and those employed each manage three to four machines” (Bain). The article continues on, saying, “Some 64% of textile, clothing, and footwear workers in Indonesia could be replaced by robots. Those numbers rise to 86% in Vietnam, and 88% in Cambodia” (Bain). People, including Americans, are going to have to find a way to better educate themselves and adapt to the coming change in the job market. The key to this is finding and learning skills that are not easily replaceable by a robot. The article concludes by saying, “’In the long-run, such a model that relies on exploiting cheap labor is unsustainable,’ [Sabina Dewan] says” (Bain).
The United States is also heavily affected by the robotic revolution. In fact, millions of jobs have been lost to artificial intelligence in the last decade. People like to blame the export of labor overseas to more cheaper options in Asia; however, one of the big reasons jobs have been disappearing is because automation and robots have been making them obsolete. An article on Gizmodo discusses how the beginning of the robotic revolution has affected the United States. It says that as of today, there are almost one million jobs that have been taken by robots, a relatively small number compared to the tens of millions more expected to be replaced within the next few decades (Dvorsky). It goes on to say that, “Experts predict that the stock of robots in the US will quadruple by 2025, jumping to 5.25 more robots per thousand workers (there are currently about 1.75 industrial robots in the US per 1,000 workers)…Each additional robot in the US economy reduces employment by 5.6 workers, and every robot that is added to the workforce per 1,000 human workers causes wages to drop by as much as 0.25 to 0.5 percent,” (Dvorsky). This will force millions of people out of work. Without a method or the skills needed to gain new employment, America is facing a huge problem within its labor force in the coming years.
There is overwhelming evidence for the robotic revolution’s arrival and its malignancy. Despite this, many people argue against its coming; others attempt to prove it beneficial for society. Three of the most common arguments are that the robotic revolution will not exist, will be a good thing, or will not have much of an impact on the world at all.
Despite the significant impact that robots and artificial intelligence has already had upon the labor force, many still deny that the revolution will occur. Supporters of this argument believe that the predictions made by scientists, analysts, and economists are simply not true. They assert that despite hundreds of experts around the world have come to the same conclusion, there is no chance of the revolution occurring. “Neither figure is a fact, of course, just a prediction about the distant future based on ‘modelling’” (Gittins). However, business and consumerism always demand newer, more efficient methods of production to satisfy their needs. The robotic revolution is the way production will skyrocket, thus fulfilling consumer demands, making the AI arrival inexorable.
This argument also stems from the data showing that production is not rising as rapidly as expected a few years ago. Due to this, people believe that the much-anticipated revolution is slowly petering out. However, many economists argue that this production stagnation is not unusual, and in fact, indicative of the revolution arriving in full force within the next decade. “Often, when a very versatile new technology comes along, it takes a while before businesses figure out how to use it effectively,” (Smith). Essentially, this means that as robotics become more integrated in the workforce, more ideas will be implemented for their use. Currently, business professionals and company executives are trying to better understand how to use more advanced robotics in a cost-efficient way. In the near future, the production numbers will eventually rise as efficient methods are popularized.
Rather than replacing jobs, labor market experts believe that the robot revolution will simply bring about more expedient forms of production with the affect of temporary fluctuations in the job market. They believe that there will be a temporary setback in the job market, but that it will eventually be resolved by the creation of new positions. The ATM, for example, was once thought to be a “job apocalypse” that would put bank tellers out of business, yet today there are more bank tellers in America than ever before (Harford). While in terms of things like the internet or the assembly line, they would be correct, however with robots they are entirely wrong. What the internet did was create a platform for more jobs to be founded upon. The assembly line, while it did cut the number of workers needed, still provided jobs. There were other jobs that needed doing as well. But now, with robots, no human operating the modern assembly lines will be needed. No bank teller will be needed either, as instead of interacting with a real person, there will be a human-like, more efficient AI to work with instead. It is true that someone will have to repair the robots and program them, but eventually robots will be made to do those jobs as well. What happens then? The robot revolution, while providing incredibly efficient, precise labor, will ultimately lead to a loss of jobs and a huge rise in unemployment around the world.
One other possible argument, and debatably the most illogical, is that the robot revolution will not amount to much at all. If and when the upheaval comes to fruition, there will be a palpable effect felt throughout the world. Many people argue that while continued progression of automation is inevitable in the workforce, there are ultimately tasks within factories, banks, and fast-food restaurants that will always require a human to do them. Some economists, “…noted that occupations categorized as at high risk of automation often still contain a substantial share of tasks that are hard to automate,” (Gittins). This argument operates under the assumption that robotic innovation will stop at a certain point. If no developers or inventors were to work on advancing robots after a certain point of automation was met, or progression in the area was outlawed on a global scale, this argument might hold some validity. However, this is simply not the case. Eventually, those more dexterous or delicate jobs will be automated, and those people who think differently are merely fooling themselves with willful ignorance.
Many of the people who believe in this argument are merely uninformed or refuse to objectively look at the facts. The robotic revolution is an inevitable and natural progression of technology that have far reaching consequences. The displacement of workers will be significant and will be compounded as more and more advanced and specialized robots are developed. Eventually, the robot revolution will bring about a society where very few labor or logic-based jobs require humans at all.
The robotic revolution is an unprecedented occurrence that will eventually affect the jobs of everyone in the world. Everything from finances to manual labor will be automated. New advances will seemingly come around the corner. One of the most important things to remember, however, is that it is possible to circumvent some of the consequences personally experienced. Equipped with the knowledge of the robotic revolution, it is possible to prepare in such a way that the effect will be largely mitigated. People, especially young adults and teenagers, must keep up-to-date with the latest advancements, read all the predictions and future technologies, and above all else, develop skills that robots will not easily replicate. Some of the best jobs that robots will not be able to replace for a long time are related to psychology, complicated medical procedures, and many forms of programming. Without preparation, the robotic revolution will have a huge, negative impact on the average person’s life. However, such setbacks can be avoided if people choose to position themselves with careers that can weather the growing pains of this transition and accept the beneficial contributions that artificial intelligence has to offer.
Alam, Nafis and Graham Kendall. “Are robots taking over the world’s finance jobs?” 29 June 2017. The Conversation. Article.
The main idea of the article is focusing on whether robots are taking away financial jobs. The writer’s purpose it to show whether or not robots are taking away work in the financial district. The writer’s intended audience are those who are interested in the coming robotic revolution as well as financial workers. Alam and Graham emphasize the AI as well as the calculation part of the robots that are taking jobs away. The author makes the assumption that the reader knows a little about the issue of robots. There is some bias in the fact that the overall tone seems negative towards robotic innovation. Something omitted is that there is not real solution presented within the article. The evidence clearly supports the author’s main points.
Alton, Larry. “How Should Millenials Prepare For The Coming Robotic Revolution.” 29 January 2018. Forbes. Article.
Bain, Marc. “Robots are set to take the jobs of millions of Asian workers in the coming years.” 8 July 2016. Quartz. Article.
The main idea of this article is focusing on whether robots will take away manual labor jobs in Asia. Bain is attempting to show that jobs will be taken away. The intended audience is 1st world readers. Bain emphasizes the textile industry as well as how America will be affected as well. An assumption is made that the reader is aware of the impending crisis. There is a bias towards 1st world readers as this information does not really help the poor Asian factory worker. There do not seem to be any obvious omissions. The evidence clearly supports the main points of the article.
Conway, David. “Robots Will Save Manufacturing Billions.” 8 August 2014. ARK Invest. Article. 9 February 2018.
The main idea of this article is that robots and automation will eventually save manufacturing businesses billions. Conway is showing that roots are inherently more cost effective than human workers. The intended audience is people who will either be affected by this change or stand to benefit from this advancement. The specific costs of robots are heavily emphasized, providing hard fact based argument for the writer’s points. The assumption is made that this information will affect the reader in some way. There is no real bias in this article. There are no real omissions present. The evidence very clearly supports the author’s arguments.
Dvorsky, George. “Robots Are Already Replacing Human Workers at an Alarming Rate.” 28 March 2017. Gizmodo. Article.
The main idea of this article is showing how much work robots can do compared to people and how much each one affects the economy. Dvorsky is showing that robots are just plainly more efficient and cost effective than humans. His intended audience are those who will be affected or are interested in the robotic revolution. The ratio of work done by robot compared to man is heavily emphasized. The assumption is made that the reader is slightly familiar with the affects robots have on the economy and the workforce. There are no real omissions present. The evidence very clearly supports the author’s arguments.
Galeon, Dom and Kristin Houser. “An AI Completed 360,000 Hours of Finance Work in Just Seconds.” 8 March 2017. Futurism. Article.
Gittins, Ross. “Why the robot revolution won’t play out as predicted.” 12 September 2017. The Sydney Morning Herald. Article.
The main idea of this article is to show that the robotic revolution will not really happen. Gittins is trying to show that just because there are all these predictions about what may happen, what is said may not really come about to pass. His intended audience are those who want flimsy evidence on whether the robotic revolution is real or not. It is heavily emphasized that models prove nothing about the future. The assumption is made that the reader is against believing in the robotic revolution. The author was biased towards the robot revolution being bogus. There was an omission in the sense that the author did not look at things from a different perspective, only his own. The evidence merely provides conjecture and no facts to support his claims.
Harford, Tim. “We are still waiting for the robot revolution.” 29 June 2017. Financial Times. Article.
The main idea of this article is to show that while technology is advancing rapidly, no robotic revolution will come about from it. Harford is trying to show that just because some jobs are taken, there will be no technical apocalypse as is commonly predicted. His intended audience are those who desire proof that their fears are unfounded. It is emphasized that just because some jobs in banks were taken, there are more jobs in banks today than ever before in America. The assumption is made that the reader wants to believe the robotic revolution will never occur. The author is biased towards believing the robotic revolution will not come about. The author omits the fact that there are more bank jobs in America today because of the higher population, not due to a deficiency in technological advancement. The evidence provided merely proofs, if anything at all, that the robotic revolution is merely not here yet and it taking its time.
Li, Shan. “Wendy’s adds automation to the fast-food menu.” 28 February 2017. Los Angeles Times. Article.
Masunaga, Samantha. “Robots could take over 38% of U.S. jobs within about 15 years, report says.” 24 March 2017. latimes. Article. 4 February 2018.
The main idea of this article is to show that millions of jobs in the US alone will be taken away by robots. Masunaga is trying to show that many financial district and transportation jobs will become automated. Her intended audience are those who are worried by the robotic revolution. It is emphasized that specifically financial jobs in America will be automated. The assumption is made that the reader has some semblance of knowledge about the robotic revolution. The author is biased towards the revolution occurring. The author does not really omit anything other than a perspective on if the robot revolution does not come about. The evidence provided is somewhat opinion based, but some facts reside within the article.
Shewan, Dan. “Robots will destroy our jobs – and we’re not ready for it.” 11 January 2017. The Guardian. Article. 8 November 2017.
The main idea of this article is to show that every part of the workforce will be affected by robots in the coming years. Shewan is trying to show that no job is truly safe. His intended audience is anyone with a job. It is emphasized that all jobs are at risk, anything from fast-food to construction. The assumption is made that the reader wants to know about the robotic revolution. The author is biased towards the revolution being a real thing. The does not really omit anything. The evidence provided is thorough and provides solutions for the coming problems.
Smith, Noah. “The Robot Revolution is Coming. Just Be Patient.” 16 November 2017. Bloomberg View. Article.
The main idea of this article is to show that while the robot revolution will come about, it will not affect society too much. The authors is trying to remove the severity of the revolution. The intended audience are those who want to see that the robot revolution will not be too bad. It is emphasized that productivity levels are stagnating currently. The author assumes that the reader knows what people are saying should be occurring during the robotic revolution. The author is biased towards believing the revolution will not affect much. The author omits the possibility of production levels spiking as robots become more integrated into the workforce. The evidence is stated in such a way that it supports the author’s argument.
Stark, Harold. “As Robots Rise, How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Jobs.” 28 April 2017. Forbes. Article. 24 October 2017.
Stewart, Heather. Robot revolution: rise of ‘thinking’ machines could exacerbate inequality. 4 November 2015. Web Article.
Wohl, Benjamin. “How Artificial Intelligence and the robotic revolution will change the workplace of tomorrow.” 16 March 2017. The Conversation. Web Article. 24 October 2017.
Wohl focuses on how people should change their educational methods to better fit the growing reliance on artificial intelligence. Wohl attempts to educate people on what their focuses in school and career choices should be in the future. His intended audience is everyone in the near future whose lives will be affected by the robotic revolution. Wohl emphasizes the fact that humans will simply not be able to compete with robots in some areas of the workplace, such as computing or repetitive tasks, but will be superior to them in others, such as human interaction and more creative jobs. Wohl makes the assumption that the reader has a desire to get ahead of the impending job crises and is well informed of the many changes coming. There is no obvious bias within Wohl’s writing. There are no obvious omissions within Wohl’s article. The evidence clearly supports Wohl’s main point of people having to adapt to new roles in order to keep being employed.