For a long time, this debate of Humans versus robot has persisted. Credible arguments have been tossed both ways to enumerate on the consequences, pros and cons of this. Artificial intelligence is the development of computerized systems that are able to mimic human-like intelligence in the use of vision, decision making, and behavior. The computerized systems are robots that are pre-programmed to carry out desired tasks. In the recent past and future robots have ventured into human jobs and are now threatening to overtake humans in their fields of expertise. In this document, we shall look at artificial intelligence and how it fairs with humans in the workplace.
In the recent past, the value of human technology was increased by the entry-level technological advancements. This was mainly due to the very slow progress. By contrast, the progress being exhibited today is too fast such that it devalues the human labor in the workplace. Statistics of measured rates of change in technological advancements show that the process is faster today clocking at an astounding 2 percent a year ("What Happens to Society When Robots Replace Workers? - HBR"). The global economy today has been replaced by advancements from automobiles to robot sand drones- these advancements have led to the advent or worker replacing technology. Looking for instance at the world’s largest contractual manufacturer Foxconn which makes products such as the Apple’s iPhone has a more than one million employees in China. The company recently announced that it intends to replace the human labor by installing one million replacement Foxbots at the rate of 30,000 bots per year. Terry Gou, the CEO said that the employment of artificial intelligence will make the company avoid human labor in the future. Currently, the robots go for an average $20,000 each and they are used to perform routine tasks such as welding, spraying along the assembly line.
According to a recent study by the consulting firm McKinsely, the cost of using robotics has reduced by half since 1990. This is a clear indication that robots are becoming cheaper than they were and this will increase adoption of artificial intelligence. For instance, an MIT student established company, Rethink robotics, has developed an industrial robot that does not require months of programming and installation. The robot is simply plugged into a system and it is ready to assume its function on the production line in less than 60 minutes ("Man Vs. Machine: Cheaper Robots, Fewer Humans"). In addition, this robot has a price tag of just $22,000, this in effect has led to pressure to increase in wage costs in both developed and developing countries. An almost similar robot the Baxter that is being produced now at $22,000 is produced in quantities of about 500 bots a year. In the near future, this robot will cost less than $5000 creating immense pressure even for the lowest-paid workers in underdeveloped countries.
An analysis and prediction by the Boston Consulting group showed that going forward cheaper and better robots will be developed and will be in a better position to replace human workforce in the factories. This will result in the manufacturers’ labor costs dropping by 16%. According to the report, Boston Consulting Group predicts that manufacturing companies will increase their investment in industrial robots by 10 percent every year through 2025. The management in these companies has realized that this will increase the companies efficiency and at the same time lower labor costs −a win-win situation. Boston Consulting forecasts in numbers show that South Korea will be able to cut their labor costs by up to 33 percent, Japan 25 percent, 22 percent in the Unites States and Taiwan and Canada by 24 percent ("Robots Replacing Human Factory Workers at Faster Pace - LA Times"). Even a bigger challenge for the human workforce is that robots nowadays are improved in that they can be reprogrammed faster and perform more efficiently than a re-trained equivalent human workforce. With increasing global labor costs, manufacturers have to find a competitive edge and advanced robotics is creating a platform for a sharp improvement in productivity (Pearce 3).
After interviewing experts and clients and analyzing government reports Boston Consulting concluded that age the age of robotics will not be limited to developed countries but will spread to developing countries. Countries such as China will be able to slash its labor costs by up to 20 percent. Manufacturing companies have always chased areas where labor is cheap so that they cut costs and remain competitive. With increasing automation factories that are expanding and those that are starting will have to find a balance between their skilled human workforce and the much-needed automation. Factories in low-wage markets will be lured back into the United States due to the high level of automation and, therefore, lower wage costs.
The robotic revolution does not only affect the manufacturing sector but is also spreading its wings to the service sector as well. Today nearly every office activity is a computerized and with advances like online retailing and electronic accounting cropping up it is only a matter of time before this field is engulfed as well. In the modern society, most of the jobs today are an extension of information processing and structured tasks are most easily performed by machines.
Technological development have always caused human employment opportunities to increase but today and in the near future its different as the internet of things is slowly factoring out humans and bringing up what is termed as the “Second Economy.” “The second economy”, as described by Brian Arthur is the virtual economy where computers only communicate with computers and as a result humans are being substituted with code and complex algorithms. The second economy is proving to be a lucrative venture with a couple of billionaires cropping up globally.
Even with the advent of artificial intelligence, robots have found it hard fully substitute human workforce in the working areas. Modern day robotics is highly programmable, but they are still unable to “think” on their own. Their complex algorithms and code are designed by a human brain before being fed into a computer. Human cells have the ability to recreate themselves and yet no machine to date has been able to achieve this. The human hand, for instance, is designed to multitask from hammering to delicate jobs that require precision (Engdahl 4). The robotic arm’s functionality is fixed and lacks the maneuvering ability of the human arms.
In summary, Artificial Intelligence has the capacity to replace human labor in working areas. With all the benefits that accrue to manufacturers about the use of robotics, it is fair to say that robots to an extent offer better labor than humans. Humans face the challenges of ever rising labor costs and getting fatigued when overworked. Machines on the other hand will not claim working rights and or health insurance. Manufacturers in their quest to stay in business try to minimize all costs to the maximum and substituting human labor with machines as much as possible is the way to go.
Engdahl, Sylvia. Artificial Intelligence. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Print.
Pearce, Q L. Artificial Intelligence. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2011. Print.
"Man Vs. Machine: Cheaper Robots, Fewer Humans." SPIEGEL ONLINE. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2015.
"Robots Replacing Human Factory Workers at Faster Pace - LA Times." Latimes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2015.
"What Happens to Society When Robots Replace Workers? - HBR." Harvard Business Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 May 2015.