Robot Wars: Massive Job Losses in the Evolution of Industrial Robots
29 March 2017

You return home from work, juggling the beef patties and wedges of cheddar you bought for your much anticipated weekend barbeque. Your phone is nestled in your pocket, tantalisingly close, yet just out of reach. Slightly irritated, you proceed to yell at Siri who then speedily confirms the next day’s predicated sunshine and you flop down on the couch, relieved. What on earth would you do without trusty old Siri in your times of desperate need?

Whether you’re partial to the odd Siri chat or you wept with joy at the prospect of Amazon drones delivering to your doorstep, most of us are reliant on technology to some degree, and this reliance has proved to not only persevere in our leisure activities but in our working lives. And although the prospect of an automated robot doing the tea runs in the office may seem pleasing, it’s recently come to the surface that industrial robots are not only superseding jobs performed by humans, but completely displacing them.  

According to the New York Times, two leading economists have verified that robots are continuing to replace jobs occupied by humans, particularly in manufacturing and industrial sectors. They claim that ‘each robot per thousand workers decreased employment by 6.2 workers and wages by 0.7 percent’. The Register also claims that there are between 1.5 and 1.75 million robots operating jobs around the globe, and in his final speech as US President, Barack Obama even warned of the evolution of automation and the potential of rendering middle-class jobs obsolete.

Needless to say, although many of us may now be imagining our daily encounters as akin to scenes from The Terminator, not all of the robots operate through Artificial Intelligence but instead through easily programmed models, performing only repetitive tasks for the production of electronics, chemicals, metal and plastic products with superior efficiency and accuracy to human capabilities. Despite hyper-automation having proven to have a negative effect on certain jobs, the use of robots has the ability to create new jobs for software developers and data analysts, allowing an evolutionary turn in the job market. However, these advantages would not necessarily have the potential to outweigh losses from manufacturing jobs, and will have detrimental effects on both the economy and the livelihood of thousands of blue-collar workers.  

We have undoubtedly made astonishing scientific and technological advancement particularly in the past decade, but this raises the question: should we always implement our technological discoveries just because we can? Is there a limit to how we facilitate our knowledge? Though an automated system is never going to take a sick day, robots may not have the abilities to fully encompass aspects of humanity such as empathy and common sense that are integral to jobs outside of the industrial sectors, for instance customer service jobs. But with the rise of artificial intelligence, these concepts are on the horizon and certainly up for debate.

What are your thoughts on human jobs being replaced by robots? Do you think it’s more or less advantageous for our economy? Let us know over on Facebook and Twitter, or find your perfect job in our current vacancies.