Monday, August 20, 2012

The (squishy) Robots Are Coming (and taking your job!)

Two disparate articles this week got me thinking about the future of work. A feature in the NY Times described the rapid evolution of workplace robots that can seemingly do the type of complex assembly processes that now occupy millions of low-wage workers overseas. This may help to return some manufacturing to the US, but will not be providing many new jobs. An article in SCIENCE discussed ‘soft machines’ that move similarly to soft-bodied sea creatures and that can assume new colors or shapes.  Coupled with advances in computer based speech recognition and response (e.g. Apple’s Siri), it is not hard to project these developments into the creation of android-like machines that could mimic many human functions in the workplace, not only in manufacturing but in many service related activities as well. Do we need to start thinking about a workplace without humans?

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