When will robots take our jobs? – Fast Company

by | Apr 21, 2022 | Jobs

For decades, robots have worked alongside humans. In the auto industry, for example, they’ve long been the most precise and reliable welders and painters. Sitting in place and doing the same job, over and over, has historically been automation’s sweet spot.advertisementadvertisementBut, with the explosion in artificial intelligence, robots are coming to understand more complex, nuanced tasks. And they are increasingly able to navigate, both inside and outside. In agriculture, robots are not only plowing fields, but can now recognize weeds and zap them with lasers. In hospitals, robots are doing everything from fetching supplies for nurses to helping surgeons direct their instruments more precisely.A 2020 World Economic Forum report predicted that robotics and automation would displace 85 million jobs globally in the coming five years. Yet, it also predicted that the technologies would create 97 million new jobs—generally ones requiring more skills and education.Sure enough, that’s creating a lot of very-human anxiety. A 2021 Morning Consult poll found that 48% of Americans fear that automation will reduce the number of jobs. That fear was higher among adults earning less than $50,000 annually and those without a college degree.advertisementadvertisement“The people who have skills, who have training, they can get a job,” says Lionel P. Robert Jr., a professor at the University of Michigan Robotics Institute. “The people at the low end—when those jobs go away, they just have less options to find another job.”As everyone knows, the supply chain is under tremendous pressure with a boom in consumer spending. E-commerce exploded as the pandemic lockdowns set in, and it continues to grow rapidly (up 14.2% from 2020 to 2021). Demand is accelerating the deployment of already advanced robots, and nowhere are the prospects for automation stronger than in two particular sectors: warehousing and trucking.The automatic warehouse“Moving pallets around, moving forklifts around, moving boxes around in fulfillment centers—that’s an area where we’ve seen just massive robotic explosion,” says Matthew Johnson-Roberson, director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Amazon operates its own in-house robotics company to push the tech forward. And a growing cadre of startups, such as Berkshire Grey, Covariant, Dexterity, and Plus One Robotics, are offering automation services to the rest of the industry.advertisementTake, for instance, the “put wall”—an array of cubbies that workers sprint to fill up with customer orders. Berkshire Grey now offers a robotic put wall that automatically fills the cubbies and transfers the completed orders for shipping. It can handle the same amount of orders with just one-third as many employees, the …

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