Robots in the the Workplace

When people think about robots in the workplace, they sometimes think about robots taking away jobs from humans, for example, packaging items that humans used to do by hand. But they’re also better off doing things humans probably shouldn’t be doing, like running for miles in a warehouse fetching items for shipment.

And as Kevin Kelly says in the current issue of Wired, the best jobs for robots are the jobs that humans wouldn’t ever be able to do:

While the displacement of formerly human jobs gets all the headlines, the greatest benefits bestowed by robots and automation come from their occupation of jobs we are unable to do. We don’t have the attention span to inspect every square millimeter of every CAT scan looking for cancer cells. We don’t have the millisecond reflexes needed to inflate molten glass into the shape of a bottle. We don’t have an infallible memory to keep track of every pitch in Major League Baseball and calculate the probability of the next pitch in real time.

We aren’t giving “good jobs” to robots. Most of the time we are giving them jobs we could never do. Without them, these jobs would remain undone.

Of course, when I think of robots in the future, I also think of Ripley putting on the powerloader exoskeleton.


10 Comments / Post A Comment

Sorry I’m late, I heard the nerd alert go off and got over here as quick as I could. Anyway: technically, the exoskeleton suit is not a “robot” because it requires direct human control.

Mike Dang (#2)

@stuffisthings There will also be a future post about cyborgs.

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

@Mike Dang That will be the best post ever.

When I think of future robots I think of (deep breath):

Wall-E and Eve
Cylons and the ensuing devastation of mankind.
The Matrix and the ensuing devastation of mankind.
Robocop (though more of a cyborg I guess? Also the bald dude in Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back and also Darth Vader more or less)
That first short story from Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot” about the robot nanny who basically developed feelings for its charge but then got replaced for a shinier model, that story makes me cry every time.
And speaking of robots with or without feelings, Data from Star Trek (note how whenever a big crazy problem happened on TNG Data would frequently be damaged or out of commission for some reason because obviously he could solve all the problems, but since he wasn’t there to solve the problems frackin’ Wesley Crusher did it).
And also Blade Runner duh, robot detectives would be amazing.

All these future robots were pretty good at their jobs, from destroying humanity to finding plant things to rescuing small children, sniff.

Allow me share one of my favorite Wikipedia lists.

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

@stuffisthings I’ll have to look at that later I need to maintain some semblance of productivity today. This is going to be so much fun. I wrote a blog post once about my favorite robots that look like actual people, it was a pretty long blog post.

@TheDilettantista My favorite part is the word “fictional” — you know, they’re leaving room for a list of REAL androids/cyborgs at some point in the future.

deepomega (#22)

Whenever careers and robots are mentioned in the same piece, I am obligated to remind everyone of the time Obama said ATMs are stealing our jobs.

TARDIStime (#1,633)

@deepomega haha, he was saying that as a joke, right?

deepomega (#22)

@TARDIStime Nope! See here.

Brunhilde (#78)

As long as they say “Bite my shiny metal ass” for comic relief occasionally I’m cool with them.

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