Fearing a future run by unemployment and robots

A paranoid ramble… or is it?

Jake Hamilton, Opinion Editor

I sleep fine at night. I eat regularly and laugh at the world’s contradictions. But every so often a rumor spreads between the fibers of my brain tissue, and leaves me shivering and fidgeting, if only for awhile.

This rumor might be called a fearful forecast of the future. It started as an off-hand thought-bubble: something to shrug off and smile at from behind a bullet-proof, tinted window of denial. Then it grew, now hiding around every corner, sleeping in every crevice of my mind.

Most of the time, even the extreme threats of the near future seem miles away. But here’s me bringing it outside, at least for as long as it takes me to write this article.

My fears are simple: unemployment and robots.

I should explain. Economically speaking, when industries lose employment, its more profitable for the country as a whole if those workers move into new, more profitable industries. It sounds simple enough, and for the most part, it has always been sustainable. But now consider the dynamite thrown into the cogs of this delicate machinery.

Robots have grown from awkward toys to vicious conquistadores of the job market. As they continue to progress exponentially in ability and affordability, it might just not be worth it anymore for many industries to deal with hiring, training, paying and disciplining human workers.

If you ever want to give yourself a scare and lose your sense of financial security, just look up the new receptionist robot developed at NTU in Singapore. This humanoid can “remember your name and previous conversations that you had with her, and even has her own personality, mood and emotions” (ScienceWorldReport). That’s right, while humans struggle to fit the social conventions of the workplace, Nadine (the humanoid) performs with ease, never eating coworkers’ pastries out of the fridge, forgetting birthdays or falling into destructive office romances.

There are already plans to implement these robot super-humans as clerks, nurses and tour guides. It seems that every profession that we think needs a human touch actually doesn’t. And every job involving factories and production most likely will be the first targets of this war on human employment.

Some of you may be thinking: “Well golly, that’s tough stuff but at least now there’s plenty of jobs for robot designers.” Unfortunately, I doubt there’s even that bright-side. There are already programs that are designed to write other programs. It can’t be too far off before we have robots designing other robots.

For now, it seems, creative jobs are the safest bet: writers, teachers, artists, directors, architects, etc. But we can’t expect robots to lack creativity forever.

I know, there’s no way, uh uh, no siree, that’s inconceivable, not even worth considering. Still, they say the only accurate predictions of the future are the ones that sound completely insane at the time.

See you all in the unemployment lines. If you bump into Nadine, tell her she’s been doing a great job.