Everyone always talks about how robots are going to steal our jobs. Some researchers estimate that advanced robots could swipe tens of millions of jobs away from fleshbag humans in the coming 30 years. One of the obvious and imminent threats is driving vehicles, which could replace all transit, trucking, and taxi jobs within the next 25 years.
But let’s stop with the negativity. As a cheesy inspiration poster once said: “When one door closes, another opens.”
Throughout the history of technology, new developments have always threatened to shift the status quo of job markets, whether it was the invention of the wheel, the plow, the printing press, the steam engine, or the Internet. In many of these instances, the advances helped move more humans away from repetitive, dangerous, and less-skilled roles, and towards more highly skilled technical jobs.
Just think of the Luddites, the derogatory slur for someone who’s foolishly out of touch with the present day. The name comes from a group of English textile workers in the early 1880s, who destroyed newly-developed weaving machinery that reduced the need for their labor.
Dr Hector Gonzalez-Jimenez, an expert on social robotics and marketing at the UK's University of York, has recently written a piece for The Conservation that explains a few fun ways in which robots could help create some jobs (for the time being at least).
According to Gonzalez-Jimenez, “robot nurses” will be a must. In other words, there’s going to be increasing demand for skilled workers who understand mechanical technology, as well as have knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits. There’s currently just 13,800 of these jobs in the US, but that number will likely slowly increase over the coming years. The salary isn’t half bad either.
“Robot singing teachers” will be in demand too, apparently. This doesn’t strictly mean fleets of people teaching robots to be the next Beyonce. It is likely, however, there will be people who earn their keep by developing software that robots use to learn add-on functions that go beyond their standard factory settings. That could include things like cooking a new meal, riding a bike, or learning to sing.
“Robot plastic surgeons” will also be a demanded skill, according to Gonzalez-Jimenez. So too will “robot travel agents” and “beauty contest judges for robots”.
This is all just an exercise to think about how robots will change the job market beyond the argument of them taking over our jobs. Just like the times before us, this inevitable transition will need to be well managed and finely balanced. It's also fair to say that we probably won't see the next wave of jobs coming, just as laid-off factory workers in the 20th century didn't anticipate the Internet boom.
But hey, rest assured, your future job probably won’t be a fuel-cell for an all-encompassing AI megacity. We’ve got a bit of time before that.