There’s no denying the benefits of automation. Factory robots make work safer for people and prevent injuries. They reduce costs, increase production, and improve efficiency. The precision of a factory robot means a better, more consistent product. Imagine trying to swap out components on your motion control system if servos were hand crafted with all of the flaws, inconsistencies, and expressions of human error.
In other words, automation is pretty great, and as great as it currently is, it’s only going to get better. Some think that AI, robotics, and automation technology will improve to the point where robots will be better than humans at almost everything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will cease to be useful.
What’s different about the fourth industrial revolution?
Our level of connectivity, the ability to use vast amounts of data, and the capabilities of automation are what set this next industrial revolution apart from past industrial revolutions.
The internet brought the world a level of connectivity and communication that would have been difficult to fathom even 50 years ago. Both humans and machines can communicate instantly on opposite sides of the globe. From social interactions to business to grocery shopping, the internet has completely reshaped how we live our lives.
As important as the internet has been, Marc Raibert, the founder and CEO of Boston Dynamics, recently claimed that robotics will have a bigger impact on the world than the internet has had. The idea is that while the internet allows us to access and share information around the world, robotics will allow us to go a step further and actually manipulate the physical world.
People are still better than robots at a lot of things
People currently have job security because robots aren’t better than humans at everything. We’re still better than machines at doing things that require creativity, thinking, adapting to new situations, empathizing, wondering, and plain old manual dexterity.
Automation will definitely displace workers, but that doesn’t mean they will replace workers. When automation makes people redundant in one profession, we find news ways to be useful.
Bill Gates suggested an income type tax for robots that displace human workers in factories. That doesn’t mean he sees a future of unemployable humans, however. He also believes that factory machines will allow people to do the things people do better than machines, such as teaching and care giving.
We make robots, machines, and automation to improve upon what humans are doing rather than to attempt to make people useless.
Will we let ourselves become useless?
There are two separate questions to ask when determining whether or not robots will render humans unemployable.
- Will we develop robots that are better than humans at all tasks?
- Will we allow automation to sideline human workers?
Let’s assume that automation becomes advanced to the point where robots can do everything better than humans, as Elon Musk suggests. Workers are no longer needed to provide any type of goods or services, because robots can do it better, faster, more efficiently, and more affordably. Does this mean humanity will be out of a job?
Only if we accept the role as useless, unemployable, redundant human.
It doesn’t seem likely that humanity would go along with that idea. Would you?
Are your robots ready?
Automation is already essential to industry. Whether you’re an optimist who believes that people will always find ways to be useful, or you’re a pessimist who believes that sci-fi predictions of a redundant human race are an inevitability, automation will become increasingly important in factories, homes, and our everyday lives.
Are your machines smart factory-ready? Indramat servos run reliably and maintenance-free for decades at a time. That means it’s probably been a while since your servos have had a little TLC. Call 479-422-0390 for immediate Indramat assistance.