You are afraid that one day robots will come and take away your job, right? Think again. Robots ain’t coming. Robots are here already. And guess what: they are not taking away your job. More to the contrary: while they are not replacing you but complementing you, more jobs are being created for people like you (and me and everybody else).
At least that is what the automation processes implemented at Amazon show us: when it started adding robots to the warehouse workflow, Amazon had about 80,000 warehouse employees in the United States. Today, it has 125,000 warehouse team members and is hiring fast. At the beginning of the year, the company announced it would hire 100,000 more team members across its 70 fulfillment centers, and it’s looking for a new second headquarters.
So, what happens with people’s jobs? They change: instead of doing the tedious and physically taxing work that fulfillment centers demand, workers are now babysitting robots. Well, that and complementing each other -in a way that almost resembles a well-practiced choreography, as can be seen in this New York Times video:
Of course, that requires re-training the workforce, in this case from warehouse bin packers and palletizers to robot operators. But, as I already wrote about, that is the sign of the times: learn, unlearn, relearn is the mantra of the 21st century worker, needed to adapt to an ever-changing labor market, even within the same company.
Which is not easy, but that is made easier when companies (such as Amazon, to continue with the example) set up training programs where they only ask the employee to pay 5 percent of the cost, while they pay 95 percent of tuition to learn professional careers like computer-aided design, nursing, and even aircraft mechanics.
That is what I call a future-proof company: they are not only preparing their workforce so that they can be replaced by robots (which is inevitable and desirable in many positions), they are preparing them for better-paying jobs. A win-win situation. One where -funny as it may sound- the company is putting their staff first, while bringing more robots on board.
All this doesn’t mean that (some) jobs will not be lost to robots and automation. They will. They are. But they will most likely be physical jobs like repetitive food service, retail, waste service, and cleaning services. Yes, the kinds of jobs that should be lost to robots and automation -so that we, humans, can do the jobs that add value, that are meaningful and fulfilling, that pay well.
That may require that we train, and re-train, and train some more. But that would happen anyway, with or without robots. So why not take advantage of them and let them do the jobs we don’t want to do anyway? I, for one, would be more than happy to have robots do all the stuff I don’t want to do. How about you?
Additional watching: The AI Race (documentary produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) https://youtu.be/gLeuCj0ZFo4