Robots to Replace Low-Skilled Jobs?

How would you feel about a robot asking, “Would you like fries with that?” when you ordered a Big Mac? Well, if the National Intelligence Council’s recent Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World is correct, we could be experiencing just that by 2025.

Granted, it’s a few years down the road, but the idea that robots could be so capable to replace humans is interesting to think about, that’s for sure. Plus, assuming the robots are programmed to be nice at all times, we like the idea of guaranteed polite service.

However, this cool technology won’t come without costs: The NIC notes that these types of robots could disrupt unskilled labor markets and affect immigration patterns by filling some jobs that are currently performed by migrant workers.

If this robotic technology is to come to fruition, some of the drivers could come from the need for healthcare or home care for aging populations, the desire to improve manufacturing productivity, and from security and safety applications.

It may seem a bit like a scene from a sci-fi movie, but another concept in the NIC’s report predicts wearable exoskeletons that could resemble a wearable humanoid robot and supplement human physical capabilities. This robot would use sensors, interfaces, power systems, and actuators to monitor and respond to arm and leg movements. This type of technology would be particularly useful for the handicapped and the elderly, but it could also be used to reduce reliance on manual labor.

While the NIC lists the exoskeleton idea as possible, it suggests human cognitive augmentation technologies that it considers plausible. These technologies would enhance human cognitive abilities through drugs, implants, virtual learning environments, and wearable devices. The devices could improve vision, hearing, and even memory.

All of these technologies sound very cool, but going back to reality, today’s robots are not quite as advanced as those predicted by the NIC. Even so, we’re still entertained by this beer pouring robot that encourages tipping:

Beer pouring robot at TMCO open house from beerorkid on Vimeo.