Robots have been taking our jobs because the Nineteen Sixties. So why are politicians and business leaders only now becoming so frightened about robots causing mass unemployment?

It comes right down to the query of what a robot really is. While science fiction has often portrayed robots as androids carrying out tasks within the much the identical way as humans, the fact is that robots take far more specialised forms. Traditional twentieth century robots were automated machines and robotic arms constructing cars in factories. Commercial twenty first century robots are supermarket self-checkouts, automated guided warehouse vehicles, and even burger-flipping machines in fast-food restaurants.

Ultimately, humans haven’t turn out to be completely redundant because these robots can be quite efficient but they’re also form of dumb. They don’t think, they only act, in very accurate but very limited ways. Humans are still needed to work around robots, doing the roles the machines can’t and fixing them once they get stuck. But that is all set to alter due to a brand new wave of smarter, higher value machines that may adapt to multiple tasks. This change will likely be so significant that it is going to create a brand new industrial revolution.

The fourth industrial revolution.
Christoph Roser, CC BY-SA

Industry 4.0

This era of “Industry 4.0” is being driven by the identical technological advances that enable the capabilities of the smartphones in our pockets. It is a mixture of low-cost and high-power computers, high-speed communication and artificial intelligence. This will produce smarter robots with higher sensing and communication abilities that may adapt to different tasks, and even coordinate their work to fulfill demand without the input of humans.

In the manufacturing industry, where robots have arguably made essentially the most headway of any sector, this can mean a dramatic shift from centralised to decentralised collaborative production. Traditional robots focused on single, fixed, high-speed operations and required a highly expert human workforce to operate and maintain them. Industry 4.0 machines are flexible, collaborative and may operate more independently, which ultimately removes the necessity for a highly expert workforce.

For large-scale manufacturers, Industry 4.0 means their robots will have the option to sense their environment and communicate in an industrial network that might be run and monitored remotely. Each machine will produce large amounts of information that might be collectively studied using what’s referred to as “big data” evaluation. This will help discover ways to enhance operating performance and production quality across the entire plant, for instance by higher predicting when maintenance is required and routinely scheduling it.

For small-to-medium manufacturing businesses, Industry 4.0 will make it cheaper and easier to make use of robots. It will create machines that might be reconfigured to perform multiple jobs and adjusted to work on a more diverse product range and different production volumes. This sector is already starting to learn from reconfigurable robots designed to collaborate with human employees and analyse their very own work to search for improvements, comparable to BAXTER, SR-TEX and CareSelect.

Helping hands.
Rethink Robotics

While these machines are getting smarter, they’re still not as smart as us. Today’s industrial artificial intelligence operates at a narrow level, which provides the looks of human intelligence exhibited by machines, but designed by humans.

What’s coming next is referred to as “deep learning”. Similar to big data evaluation, it involves processing large quantities of information in real time to make decisions about what’s the most effective motion to take. The difference is that the machine learns from the info so it may well improve its decision making. An ideal example of deep learning was demonstrated by Google’s AlphaGo software, which taught itself to beat the world’s best Go players.

The turning point in applying artificial intelligence to manufacturing could include the appliance of special microchips called graphical processing units (GPUs). These enable deep learning to be applied to extremely large data sets at extremely fast speeds. But there remains to be some option to go and big industrial firms are recruiting vast numbers of scientists to further develop the technology.

Tesla robotic factory.

Impact on industry

As Industry 4.0 technology becomes smarter and more widely available, manufacturers of any size will have the option to deploy cost-effective, multipurpose and collaborative machines as standard. This will result in industrial growth and market competitiveness, with a greater understanding of production processes resulting in recent high-quality products and digital services.

Exactly what impact a wiser robotic workforce with the potential to operate by itself may have on the manufacturing industry, remains to be widely disputed. Artificial intelligence as we comprehend it from science fiction remains to be in its infancy. It could well be the twenty second century before robots really have the potential to make human labour obsolete by developing not only deep learning but true artificial understanding that mimics human considering.

Ideally, Industry 4.0 will enable human employees to attain more of their jobs by removing repetitive tasks and giving them higher robotic tools. In theory, this is able to allow us humans to focus more on business development, creativity and science, which it might be much harder for any robot to do. Technology that has made humans redundant prior to now has forced us to adapt, generally with more education.

But because Industry 4.0 robots will have the option to operate largely on their very own, we would see much greater human redundancy from manufacturing jobs without other sectors with the ability to create enough recent work. Then we would see more political moves to guard human labour, comparable to taxing robots.

Again, in an excellent scenario, humans may have the option to give attention to doing the things that make us human, perhaps fuelled by a basic income generated from robotic work. Ultimately, it is going to be as much as us to define whether the robotic workforce will work for us, with us, or against us.

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