September 1, 2015
Terminated: Machines Versus Humans In The Workplace
Technology has come incredibly far in the last century. In fact, our society has already achieved many things that were once thought to be purely science fiction. From implants that allow the deaf to hear, to robots that can read human emotion, we are truly living in the future.
So will a robot be doing your job in a few years? Or are there some jobs that just can’t be replaced by machines? The answer might be more complicated than you think.
The Future Of Work
Robots have been used in the workplace for a long time, but their place has generally been in assembly lines, taking over monotonous or dangerous tasks such as screwing on bolts or bending pipes. We rely on technology and machines for many tasks in construction and building, where people often work with materials that are too heavy for humans to lift.
Robots are useful in these positions because they have the ability to do things exactly the same way every time – they will always tighten a screw to the same exact degree, and they can do it every three seconds without ever needing a break.
Now we are coming to a point in technology where we can program more complex tasks into robots. Rather than simply doing one repetitive task, robots can be programmed to perform whole sequences. Robots are no longer just replacing entry-level assembly line jobs – they are moving up in the job market.
Robots make great workers for several reasons, but the biggest of all is that they have no free will. A human worker needs lunch breaks, sick leave, and a healthy environment to work in – a robot needs none of these. A robot won’t quit because of a mean boss – it doesn’t even need to be paid. For these reasons, many businesses are looking to replace workers with robots.
Even skills that have traditionally been thought of as uniquely human, such as driving or customer service, have been mastered by robots in recent years. Self-driving cars are on the cusp of becoming a reality for consumers, and many people have experienced the frustration of calling tech support, only to be put on the line with a very polite version of an answering machine.
The Human Touch
Although some jobs are being threatened by the rise of machines, studies show that these replacements don’t always go as smoothly as expected.
The introduction of most workplace technology creates a new demand for jobs related to that technology – maintenance and tech support – and a surprising percentage of workplaces are choosing to keep their human employees.
Thirty-five percent of workplaces that attempted to replace workers with machines opted not to keep the technology.
Some of the qualities that make a good worker simply can’t be replaced by a robot – humans may not do their jobs as consistently, but they can innovate, problem-solve, and think outside of the box in ways robots just can’t replicate.
Well, not yet, anyway.