Is the rise of robotics really that much of a surprise?
I, for one, am tired of hearing how robots are taking jobs. Maybe I've been around the water cooler for too many decades, but really, is the rise of robotics that much of a surprise? And, if it is not, then why does the mentality tend to go something like, "I'll hang onto my task-oriented job as long as I can. When it's replaced by a robot, I'll figure out what to do." This might be over-simplistic, but I really think it's a common response.
Whenever disruptive technologies happen, yes, they take jobs. The technology replaces an unreliable, inaccurate, slow, or resource-driven way to do business and replaces it with a highly accurate, reliable, fast, and technology-dependent solution. Increasingly, this means robots.
Maybe education should be more visionary -- and not just at the university level, if it's even happening there. How many colleges and universities offer classes in technologies that might take hold, rather than wait until the demand for workers is screaming? Chicken-and-egg all over again?
I remember writing articles about industrial robots, albeit from a micro-contamination question, approximately 17 or 18 years ago. And yet headlines still bemoan how the robots are taking jobs. And why is it that the population tends to wait to react, rather than taking responsibility? And, why does so much of the population think it's the government's job to make sure that you have a job?
I stumbled upon an EDN article from 2009, "Robots, jobs, and war," which prompted this blog. And, then I started grazing for more. Even more on point, a recent article in The Washington Post: "Robotics and automation, employment, and aging Baby Boomers," which looks at all of these elements and how they collide. Finally, cited in the Post article is a piece in The Economist: "The future of jobs: The onrushing wave." This one indicates that dwindling employment opportunities and dismal pay may, in fact, be the result of the productivity gains based on technology.
I'm wondering if it is fear of the unknown rather than the ability to tap into the adventure of it all, that prevents us from looking at trends and reacting on our own behalf. We brag about how we are life-long learners -- really? Then why can't we seem to create our own personal futures?
I don't know where you are in the food chain, or at what point you are in your career. Maybe you're designing the robots that are so feared (and if you're a startup, make sure you have lots of stock -- maybe Google will purchase your company, too). Maybe you're convinced that you have chosen a path where you are likely to evolve along with your job. Hopefully, that's true.
Last year I wrote a blog on why the US is hiring STEM-trained immigrants while the country's own STEM graduates aren't finding jobs: Why Arenít Our STEM Graduates Hired? While all of these graduates fall under the STEM umbrella, maybe they aren't armed with the coursework to snag the jobs that are the future. And, if we're encouraging our children to be STEM graduates, maybe the discussion with them should encompass much more information, depth, and research?
OK, so I don't have the answers. I wish I did. I'm just tired of hearing the whining, and the expectation that the government somehow needs to provide jobs, or that the robots that will likely take care of the Boomers when they are receiving home healthcare are great, but the ones that put people out of repetitive-task jobs are evil.
What do you think? I'll stop and give you the floor. How do you see your own jobs, the jobs that will be in demand in the near- and long-term, changing? Would you encourage your children to follow in your path? And, if not, where would you point them? Are you tired of the whining, too?