There’s a fair amount of fear, anxiety, and speculation regarding automation and human employment. Some believe that increased automation will lead to better working conditions and new jobs that are more meaningful and more rewarding than the menial tasks that people do right now. Others know with certainty that automation, AI, and robots will bring about the end of the human worker. One of the world’s biggest retailers recently shared some insight on the future of automation and human employment. It turns out that a banana can prevent robots from taking warehouse jobs, at least for the next 10 years.
Amazon says warehouse workers are safe at the moment
The director of Amazon Robotics Fulfillment told reporters that the company is at least 10 years away from fully automating warehouses. Amazon has been criticized for poor working conditions in warehouses and poor treatment of its workers. There’s been recent speculation that the company was set to phase out workers and replace them with robots.
These rumors are likely fueled by the fact that Amazon is constantly pushing the capabilities of technology and automation, and has purchased two robotics companies since 2012. That and the fact that Amazon currently more than 100,000 robots for its operations.
According to Amazon Robotics Fulfillment director, Scott Anderson, automation technology is still far too limited to replace workers in Amazon warehouses. For example, robots aren’t involved in any warehouse operations that handle fresh foods.
We’ve seen before how food can foil an Amazon robot.
Anderson used bananas to explain the limitations of robots — “Just imagine if you want bananas. I want my bananas to be firm, others like their bananas to be ripe. How do you get a robot to choose that?”.
Humans don’t exactly have an advantage over robots when it comes to knowing how an individual prefers their banana. Unless there’s a box for online shoppers to specify banana consistency, you can’t trust robots or humans to make sure that your bananas are just the way you like them. But the point here is that humans are still better than machines at a number of tasks.
Robots still can’t do some things as well as humans.
People are smarter than robots. We can tell that a slightly misshapen banana is still a banana. We can pick things up regardless of size, shape, or position, and we aren’t stumped when something slips or falls out of our hands. Humans can pick up delicate items that damage easily, such as produce.
Most importantly, we can adapt to situations and make adjustments on the fly. Robots just aren’t there yet. We can overcome a firm banana. Robots cannot.
Still, it seems as though Amazon is working towards fully automated warehouses, and it’s just a matter of time. Automation is essential to manufacturing, packaging, and fulfillment at the moment, and it will continue to be central to industry in the future.
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