Meet your new co-worker, Aiko. She speaks fluent Japanese and is made entirely of silicone.
Every year Japan hosts a Consumer Electronics convention, allowing companies to demonstrate their latest breakthroughs in technology. This year, Toshiba showcased their latest hire.
Her name is Aiko Chihara, and she is an Android Robot. With human-like features, Chihara speaks fluent Japanese and is pre-programmed to perform a multitude of tasks for Toshiba.
Chihara moves in a lifelike fashion, but since her actions are pre-programmed, there are no signs of Artificial Intelligence. However, companies have proved Artificial Intelligence is not necessarily a priority when deciding to replace employees with robots.
David Autor, from the MIT Department of Economics, hosted a discussion at UMBC on Thursday titled, “Will the workplace of the future have any workers?” With this highly debated topic, the discussion explored the ways in which artificial intelligence stimulates employment and productivity through advances in technology.
However, while the labor market still experiences the after effects of the 2008 recession, many experts have expressed concern surrounding the usage of androids in business. With the technology at their disposal, companies now have eminently computerized warehouses containing robots programmed to perform monotonous tasks to keep business operations flowing smoothly.
McAfee, a security software company, has about 69 robots for every 100 employees in their warehouses. Using algorithms, McAfee was able to pre-program robots to accept orders via wifi.
The robots receive customer orders through antennas and are programmed to maneuver their way throughout the warehouse to find the proper merchandise to fulfill the order. After completing one task, the robot instantaneously receives another order, making these ‘workers’ highly efficient.
“There are lots of examples of routine, middle-skilled jobs that involve relatively structured tasks … that are being eliminated the fastest,” stated Eric Brynjolfsson, MIT Professor for the Sloan School of Management.
Unfortunately for recent and future college graduates, these robots are extremely cost effective and never fail to complete a task when programmed with the correct algorithm. Working without a lunch break, sick days or holidays, these robots are provide a high level of efficiency for companies.
Robots are also used in hospitals to assist surgeons through surgeries and pharmacies to sort through customer prescriptions. Even though robots are another added layer of competition for college students applying for entry level jobs, some experts argue androids actually create jobs.
Andrew McAffe, from the MIT Sloan School of Management, claims technology is always creating jobs. In Silicon Valley, “the scale and pace of creation is astonishing. What these companies are not doing, though, is hiring a ton of people to help them with their work. Because they can’t find everyone they need.”
In response to the increased usage of robots in the workplace, Amanda Song, a sophomore biology major stated, “I believe technology is inevitably the future, and, as graduates, we will be forced to adjust.”
Even though these robots are being used in place of certain jobs, Song adopts an optimistic outlook on the labor market stating, “the innovations in technology will ultimately lead to new jobs and higher productivity for everyone.”
Before becoming discouraged of the increased competition, remember ground-breaking ideas are only achieved through human collaboration. Up until this point, robots are unable to replicate this type of human interaction. With innovation as a main component of success for businesses, creativity as a form of human capital is still in high demand.
With the ability to use robots in entry level jobs, companies are now in need of graduates with more specialized rather than a broad skill-set. Rather than harming the labor market, this technology has the ability to drive everyone to a higher level of productivity and efficiency, helping the economy further progress forward through innovation.