New advances in technology, especially automation, often send a bit of a shiver down the backs of many hard working Americans who fear a machine will replace their jobs in the coming years. While the threat is real for some workers, Inc Magazine highlights the fact that robots don’t always make them obsolete because they are only targeting the most repetitive, boring, or dangerous jobs available in the workplace. Also, at least initially, they often need an experienced worker to help program them to do their job correctly.
Once the robot is programmed, it will need someone to help maintain it with ongoing programming and maintenance. Experts in the robotics industry often promote the fact that the purpose of a robot in the workplace is to make a business more productive and enhance the jobs of existing employees by allowing them to focus on more critical tasks. This productivity can end up creating more jobs for actual humans by enabling a business to grow and expand more easily. One example of this, Scott Fetzer Electrical Group, manufactures appliance motors and saw a twenty percent increase in a plant’s productivity after installing a fleet of robots into their process. This increased business allowed them to bring business back to the factory that they had lost to China and hire more people as a result.
Despite increased productivity leading to jobs in some areas, robots excel at performing many entry-level or low-education positions in the workforce. CNN highlights the fact that roles such as cashiers, toll booth operators, drivers, and fast food, in general, are all at relatively higher risk of being taken over by machines. These jobs are repetitive and not very complicated to perform, and many people are perfectly fine using an automated kiosk, rather than a human, to pay for a new shirt. Rising minimum wages in many places, as well, means that an investment in robotics is starting to make more and more financial sense.
Robots can’t do everything, however, and many jobs such as nurses, sports coaches, hairstylists, songwriters, and social workers all face a low risk of being replaced due to the nature of their duties. These jobs all highlight the emotional connection that humans have with one another that can’t be replicated by an impersonal computer. Talking through a problem with a troubled child or working through a debilitating illness are tasks that require heart, empathy, and even something as simple as a reassuring hug. Unless robots can master the nuances of human speech and emotions, it is unlikely that they will be ruling the workforce anytime soon.