June 21st, 2017
by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jessica Burgner-Kahrs
Imagine a world where robots do all the jobs that are done by humans today. There is no need for humans to work – neither for a living, nor for cleaning, cooking, driving, …
The ultimate automation of our daily life seems plausible in light of recent advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics. “The last job on earth” animation illustrates vividly what our world could look like. In the clip, Alice holds the last job on earth. As the workforce gets upgraded, she loses her job. The fear of this situation is becoming omnipresent as experts and journalists forecast that half of our jobs will be taken by robots in the next decade.
Pessimists have long feared that machines will take their jobs. Up to now, this statement has never proven to be true. Technical advancements have even triggered the development of new jobs and new business models, thereby increasing productivity and human creativity. While it is foreseeable that increasing numbers of routine jobs will be performed by robots, the human will surely still be needed.
There is a long way to go in terms of research in order to make robots as intelligent, as versatile, as smart, as dexterous, and as adaptable as humans. But it is probably easier to say that jobs might disappear as robots take over, rather than to imagine all the new jobs that will emerge as a result of increasing automation.
But who knows what the future holds? As Watson said in 1943, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”, so my thinking might prove terribly wrong 50 years from now – even though ultimate automation is hard for me to imagine today.
Jessica Burgner-Kahrs is Associate Professor at Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany and Director of the Laboratory for Continuum Robotics. She is member of “Die Junge Akademie” since 2016.