When you think of bringing robots hitting the consumer market, you’re probably inundated with images of machines that clean your house, walk your dog, or, in more nefarious cases, build an army to enslave humankind. Despite predictions and projections of robots walking among us, the truth is we still have a long way to go before we can relinquish our mundane day-to-day tasks to a pile of circuits. Below are some of the main challenges facing modern-day robotics and what needs to happen before these mechanical helpers can walk among us.
The Human “Swap”
Outside of the physical and sentient limitations of mass-market robots, what we may need to address first is the very human hesitation to bring robots out of the lab and into the light. Sure, robots can (and already do) replace humans for certain repetitive, mundane tasks. But in a dwindling economy where jobs are scarce, do we really want them to?
When we integrate what we know (so far) about robotics with what we think we know about the future of employment, it’s easy to understand why robots are approached with apprehension. In 2017, BBC.com reported robots would take approximately 800 million jobs by the year 2030. Just as the Industrial Revolution changed the nature of work from farm to factory in the early 1900s, so too can we anticipate a seismic shift from a human workforce to robotic automation within several fields.
And what will that workforce look like? Recently, economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo asked this important question in their paper entitled The Wrong Kind of AI? Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Labor Demand: “Are we investing in the ‘right’ type of AI,” they asked, “the type with the greatest potential for raising productivity and generating broad-based prosperity?” They hypothesized that if we continue on our current developmental trajectory, we’ll end up with mediocre machines that have simply replaced human labor, with no real added benefit to society.
Robots can’t feel
We’ve only scratched the surface with what Artificial Intelligence (AI) can do. Learning how to learn, model-based reasoning – these are basic explorations that have been realized with the robots of today. However, we’re far away from sentient machines capable of common sense, of thinking, feeling and making decisions based on social dynamics and norms. We’ve got a long way to go before deploying a machine with a strong moral compass.
MarketWatch: 10 Jobs Robots Already Do Better Than You
BBC News: Robot automation will ‘take 800 million jobs by 2030’ – report
MIT & Boston U Report: The Wrong Kind of AI? ArtiÖcial Intelligence and the Future of Labor Demand