Have you met the new employee?
The new iterations of robots are smart, agile, mobile and designed to work collaboratively. By using sonar, cameras and advanced sensor technology, robots can sense their environment. They are sophisticated enough to slow their speed or stop to avoid collisions.
“Robots are among us,” says Steve Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley investor and director in Elon Musk’s Telsa and SpaceX companies. “A lot of people are going to come in contact with robots in the next two to five years.”
Historically, robots worked in manufacturing, but no longer.
Today, they’re actively used in warehouses, healthcare, retail and financial services operations.
Large companies are developing, implementing and improving “thinking” robots. Consider General Electric's spider-like robots that climb tall wind turbines for maintenance and Amazon's ottoman-shaped robots that sweep through the warehouse, pull products from shelves, and deliver them to distribution.
According to Daniela Rus, Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, “The possibility is to run a factory," she added. "All while you’re sleeping.”
Robots are also playing an ever-increasing role as surgical assistants. The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot, or STAR, is one of the new robots developed for use in the operating room. Recently, in a series of trials, STAR sutured incisions with skillful, even strokes that surpassed those of experienced surgeons.
The STAR robot is speeding up surgery’s time-consuming processes, helping to reduce costs and improve outcomes.
An article from the Washington Post dated December 5th, 2016, stated, “Robots won’t kill the workforce. They’ll save the global economy.”
Here's why: The workforce is aging worldwide, creating the big question – who is going to do the work? The baby-boom population is retiring from the workforce and incoming labor force participation is slowing for younger age groups.
The big answer may be Robots.
As Ruchir Sharma, Chief Global Strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management states, “If automation is displacing human workers as fast as implied in Martin Ford’s “The Rise of Robots,” then we should be seeing a negative impact on jobs.” However, that is not the case.
He adds, “According to my research, the job picture has been particularly strong in Germany, Japan and South Korea – the industrial companies that employ the most robots.” To that point, Nobel economist, Daniel Kaheman says, “In China, the robots are going to come just in time.” Currently, Beijing is offering heavy subsidies to companies involved in industrial automation.
Which means, that as the world’s workforce grows older, the economic answer to aging could be in the hands of our new partners: robots.
Last year, venture capital funds poured nearly $600 million into robotics-related investments.
This new interest was largely based on the potential for advancements in machine learning, which is the software that provides robots with contextual intelligence.
Contextual intelligence provides a service without having to ask for it, such as Nest thermostats, automobiles with self-braking systems, security systems that use smart phones, etc.
Quite simply, it’s applying knowledge and information to real-world situations
The debate about robots and jobs is just beginning. Melonee Wise, CEO of San Jose, California-based Fetch Robotics is one of the optimists. Her company is working on “collaborative robotics,” using machines to do things humans cannot and will not.
“Once we start seeing more service robots, people will say, 'These things are really improving my life,'“ she says.
So what is the robot’s role in the workplace of the future?
Wise compares robots to PC’s, which caused some consternation in the workplace, but ultimately became indispensible, boosting productivity as well as economic and job growth.
That said, we all have embraced computers into our everyday lives, might robots do the same?
Of course, the debate on taking jobs versus creating jobs will go on well into the future.
At Hays, we believe employees are your most important asset, and the fact is that many workforces will look drastically different in the next several years. We continue to embrace and adapt to changing technologies and work with clients on new developments and how they may impact risk management programs. Our goal is always to help you stay ahead of the challenges presented in today's business environment.