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SoftwareMedia Blog | April 18, 2014

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Are Robots Climbing The Corporate Ladder?

Are Robots Climbing The Corporate Ladder?

As technology is becoming more and more sophisticated, the field of robotics is going through very rapid advances. While robots are being created to be more like humans, there is an underlying fear that they will take over our world. Not in the dramatic sense of a robot apocalypse, but a more realistic fear; that they will take over our jobs.

It is something that is already happening.

Science fact or fiction

A recent article that appeared on journalgazette.net had the technology sector in a flat spin as it painted a bleak present and an even bleaker future for employees. Job losses are prevalent worldwide, with 7.6 million jobs in Europe having disappeared in the short span of four years. The same article quotes Andrew McAfee, one of the authors of the ebook, Race against the Machine, and researcher at the Center for Digital Business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said that he had never seen a period where computers demonstrated as many skills and abilities as they have over the past seven years. He added that the loss of jobs that resulted from the phenomenon is unlikely to be recreated elsewhere. The future, according to McAffee is one of science-fiction, where the singularity – the point where technology renders human existence obsolete – is a reality.

The controversial article stated that technology and the use of robots is spreading to all sectors of the workforce, regardless of the size of the business or the industry. From small businesses to big corporations, and from schools to the military to the health sector, robots are replacing humans across borders and across sectors. A startling fact is that job losses are not only in the blue-collar sector where robots are replacing monotonous, repetitive jobs. White-collar workers are now losing out to men of steel, as robots are slowly infiltrating the middle-pay market, replacing travel agents, store clerks, and cashiers.

Outsmarting the robots

Despite the waves of protest following the article, not everyone seems to agree with this proposed version of the future. In an interview in response to the article, Henrik Christensen seemed much more optimistic and (hopefully) realistic. Christensen is the KUKA Chair of Robotics at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing and he argues that advances in technology are just shuffling jobs around by creating new fields of employment.

Though he agrees that many jobs are being taken over by robots, he says that the jobs being lost shouldn’t have been done by humans in the first place.  He adds that the robotics industry creates 1.3 jobs in associated areas for every job that is lost. Christensen adds that there has to be a shift from unskilled labour to skilled labour, as the newly created jobs will require a higher level of education. Unfortunately, this presents many challenges, one of which is the age-old getting students interested in science, technology, engineering, and maths. From Christensen’s view, the advances in technology will push the employment sector to upgrade their workers’ knowledge along with robot software.

The need for speed

Robots are the future and they need not be feared. In fact, they should be welcomed. The International Federation of Robotics stated in a press release early this year that by 2020 robotics will create between 1.9 million and 3.5 million jobs worldwide. Not only could robotics boost businesses, but it also has the potential to save some industries that are on the brink of dying.

Alberto Effes, the Science Leader for Robotics at CSIRO, is of the opinion that the failing Australian manufacturing industry, in particular small to medium enterprises, could benefit greatly from incorporating more robotics into their practices. Effes has no fear that robotics will take away jobs, stating that it will provide a way for the existing workforce to be retained for longer, that it will boost productivity, and lead to increased remuneration for Australian employees. A new generation of lightweight robots that work with and complement human activities rather than make them obsolete is the way of the future. These robots will open up new avenues for employees, allowing them to collect and map data much faster and more accurately, and enabling them to work in environments that were too hazardous or physically demanding in the past.

Whether we welcome them or are weary of them, robots are here to stay. Hopefully we can learn from them that, to stay in the game, we need to continuously improve our skills and finding more time- and cost-efficient ways of working. Let the robotic advancement drive our human advancement.

Marilu Snyders recommends that you take steps to upgrade your skills by completing courses related to hardware and software. Search courses, including SAP training, on Now Learning to ensure that you can’t be replaced by a robot. 

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