Is Robot Unemployment On the Rise?

The short answer is, no. The number of robots, industrial machines, and automation systems that are being used globally is continuing to rise. You can read new headlines every day heralding the end of the human worker. Robotics and automation technologies are constantly improving, and the advantages machines have over humans are enough to cause some people to get a little uneasy when considering the future of the human workforce.

Robots are already taking over jobs that are easily automated. Industrial robots have been doing assembly and packaging work for close to 200 years. Self-driving cars are being perfected, which could eliminate the need for taxi drivers in the future. There are robot butlers and robo-baristas, and  you can even order your food from a robot at McDonald’s. Automation is typically cheaper, more reliable, and easier than employing humans.

There is, however, at least one instance in which robots just couldn’t cut it in the workplace. According to CBS News, several restaurants in the Chinese city of Guangzhou had to “fire” some incompetent robots.

After experimenting with robot waiters, two restaurants had to close down, and a third went back to employing human waiters. Apparently, the robots lacked the skill to carry soup, place dishes, and pour water. In addition to lacking these essential skills, they were also prone to breaking down.

You would think that carrying food from the kitchen to the table in a restaurant would fall under the category of things that are easy to automate, but serving proved to be too challenging for these robots.

Of course, you realize that this does not mean the end of robots, or indicate that automation was a fleeting fad. There may be future robotic waiters that are perfectly capable of delivering food to hungry patrons. Perhaps the robots were designed poorly, or maybe the restaurant management had lofty standards. Robots and automation are still very much the future of virtually everything.