More robots doesn't have to mean fewer jobs
08 March 2018
There is no doubt about it, even if the UK is not leading the way when it comes to implementing industrial robots, the worldwide movement towards more automated, digitalised ways of working will increasingly impact on people’s work and the roles that they carry out within the workplace. Indeed the workplace itself will be - and in many cases already is – altered as a result of growing robot and AI implementation.
Naturally, for some there is a degree of anxiety. Uncertainty is rarely a good thing, particularly if it’s people’s livelihoods potentially on the line. Little wonder then that there has been plenty of negative press coverage, often along the lines of “the robots are coming to take your job”!
However, there are signs that the tide is turning and more knowledge of the benefits of automation is filtering through. This could be something to do with the current developments in collaborative robots, or cobots, which are becoming progressively mainstream. Or it could just be that as we increasingly use AI in the consumer market – witness the proliferation of the Amazon Alexa – we are more accepting of sister technologies in the workplace.
A recent survey of over 2000 UK workers by Industrial Vision Systems has found that many are unconcerned about the impact new technology may have on their current job role, with 49% of respondents indicating that they would be happy or very happy if a factory used artificial intelligence robots to make decisions on quality control.
The research also found some misconceptions about the impact robots and artificial intelligence can have in aiding productivity in the workplace. However, with quarter of employees stating that if they had a robot colleague assisting them at work, they would feel threatened that they might take their job - that left 75% that did not feel their job was threatened.
Looking at these figures, I can’t help feeling that this might give a pretty accurate picture of the impact of automation. Undoubtedly, some of today’s roles within the workplace will be replaced by robots; on the other hand many roles will evolve to work with robots, rather than being usurped by them. Whether this takes to form of a 25/75 percent split remains to be seen.
And let’s not forget, under most economic circumstances, increased investment in automation results in increased productivity, which in turn leads to more growth and, ultimately, more jobs. If the UK strives to make the right investment decisions and keep its workforce well trained and educated in the latest technologies, there’s no reason why automation has to lead to unemployment.