When people talk about a robot apocalypse, they’re usually envisioning a war zone scenario in which machines become self aware and decide to revolt against humanity. This nightmare scenario is fanciful, but a much sneakier robot takeover has already begun.
Robots and artificial intelligence will hurt blue-collar workers and fundamentally change the economy. Robots that replace jobs have started to pop up everywhere. Berkeley residents may be familiar with Kiwibots, little robots that deliver food to people within a mile of the University of California Berkeley campus. This fleet is the latest in a wave of robots that aim to make certain services cheaper by eliminating the human worker. We already have self-checkout machines to replace cashiers and the prospect of self-driving cars to replace Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers. Despite being efficient technological innovations, these machines are not necessary and will do more harm than good.
The Kiwibots and other similar robots will take over tasks that humans currently get paid to perform. A study from global consultancy McKinsey found that almost a third of the United States workforce could be replaced by 2030. This robot takeover will affect construction workers, security guards, and people who work in the food service industry, to name a few. Artificial intelligence will even take over some white collar jobs. From small startups like Kiwibot to trillion dollar corporations like Amazon, companies are realizing that robots can slash production costs. Unfortunately, these innovations come at the expense of middle class workers. In order to keep up with the changing job market, workers will need to learn new skills.
Of course, not everyone can get extra degrees easily. College is not affordable for the vast majority of Americans, and the country’s education system and job training programs are not sufficient, according to business and technology experts from a Pew Research study. We are fundamentally transforming the economy in a way that takes away large numbers of jobs without thinking about what structure will take its place. Robots can also be disruptive and dangerous for residents.
As robots become more ingrained in society, we stray further from the fantastic robot apocalypse scenario. It’s no longer us versus the robots; the robots are replacing us.