An interesting article written by Kevin Kelly in Wired discusses the impact that robotics is having on our world, and how that will continue in the future. The focus is specifically on employment — how the world of work will be affected. The article begins:
Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent of their jobs, replacing them (and their work animals) with machines. But the displaced workers did not sit idle. Instead, automation created hundreds of millions of jobs in entirely new fields. Those who once farmed were now manning the legions of factories that churned out farm equipment, cars, and other industrial products. Since then, wave upon wave of new occupations have arrived—appliance repairman, offset printer, food chemist, photographer, web designer—each building on previous automation. Today, the vast majority of us are doing jobs that no farmer from the 1800s could have imagined.
It may be hard to believe, but before the end of this century, 70 percent of today’s occupations will likewise be replaced by automation . . . This upheaval is being led by a second wave of automation, one that is centered on artificial cognition, cheap sensors, machine learning, and distributed smarts. This deep automation will touch all jobs, from manual labor to knowledge work.
Kelly goes on to say that there will be barely any job that will be left untouched by robotics — including white-collar and information-intensive professions. The key reason for the accelerated impact of robots is that they are ‘acquiring smarts.’ — computer-based artificial intelligence is taking robotics to a new level, and according to the article will continue to do so.
Here’s a video of one of the machines mentioned in the piece: Baxter. Baxter is a relatively inexpensive robot who can be trained by the average worker to do simple manual tasks — no programming required.
One thing that Kelly doesn’t deal with in the article is the energy required to run a robotic world. If, as he predicts, we will all at some point in the future we will all be supervising personal robotic assistants which will be doing all the work we currently do, huge amounts of power will be needed to keep them going. Mobile robots doing heavy work will need much more power than mobile phones. It would seem that current energy technologies wouldn’t be able to meet those needs — would LENR be able to fit the bill? Currently, of course, no — but developers of this technology will be looking at all possible ways to incorporate it into future technologies.
I thought the conclusion of Kelly’s article was very interesting and thought provoking:
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.
Let the robots take the jobs, and let them help us dream up new work that matters.
I thought it might be interesting to think about the combined effect of robotics and LENR