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Are robots really going to steal your job?

Sarah K. White | Sept. 22, 2015
It's a common theme of science fiction, robots rise up and take over earth, leaving humans as subservient slaves to their emotionless computer chip brains. But a recent report from Forrester suggests a very different future for robots at work.

robot coworkers cobots

A robot won Jeopardy in 2011, so J.P. Gownder's Forrester report, The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side-by-Side With Robots, shouldn't come as a surprise. It was only a matter of time before robots rose up to steal our jobs and make an honest living. Except, there's not really a reason to fear robots.

Sure, humans will work closer with robots than ever before, but you also have to consider the actual definition of a robot. As pointed out in a blog post from Forrester, robots in this case can mean "all forms of automation technologies, including those that conduct physical tasks, intellectual tasks, or customer service tasks." In fact, Gownder points out that while robots might take some jobs, the reality is that robots will also help to create new job categories in the process.

In some cases, it could simply mean robots take away the monotonous parts of your job, freeing you up to focus on the more complex aspects. Take Baxter, for example, a friendly looking robot designed to help with automated tasks, like those in an assembly line. He's a "collaborative" robot, designed to assist humans and make their jobs easier, rather than take them over completely. He's aimed at small businesses that might not be able to afford the assembly line equipment of a larger business. There's even a term for these helpful and collaborative robots: CoBots.

Alternatively, "industrial robots," or those that exist in major manufacturing plants and assembly lines are designed to do a specific job, and to do it well. They won't know if a human gets in the way and, frankly, they won't care. But these robots, while sometimes dangerous, aren't the robots you're going to see sitting in the cube next to yours. And you probably won't see any robots sitting in a cube farm, for that matter.

Automation can be as harmless as implementing an automated phone system that directs calls, rather than a receptionist. This technology has existed for quite a while, but plenty of businesses still have a receptionist. But instead of directing calls, receptionist, or office managers, can perform other important tasks to help keep the business running smoothly.

Robots in retail

You can even consider a bar code scanner an automated robot or the card reader you swipe through at checkout. Even the self-checkout section at Target is generally manned by a human and self-checkout kiosks have certainly not replaced the traditional cashier. Even asking Siri to set a timer so you don't burn dinner in the oven can be considered using a robot to simplify a task. But as robots get more intelligent, some wonder how many jobs we will truly lose to robots.


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