To many people the very term robotics implies job losses. Taken in isolation it is true that robots have displaced workers in a variety of jobs involving physical labor. In a historical context, however, large-scale automation leads to reallocation of labor--typically to jobs that are less physically strenuous or dangerous. For instance, in the mid-1800s over 80% of the US population was directly involved in agriculture. Today, less than 3% of Americans are involved in farming while unemployment then and now (recessions notwithstanding) generally runs around 5%.
New technologies create new economies; the rate at which science is advancing today requires us to rethink how we manage our personal growth in adapting to changing job markets. Education interwoven within a fabric of interactive entertainment is an increasingly important key to harnessing the world's intellectual resources and directing it where its needed most as manual labor jobs are eradicated. The race to improve standards of living for a rapidly growing world population, global warming and advances in weaponry are effectively shrinking the world. Innovative ways to deal with these issues are needed, ranging from large-scale rework of infrastructure to massive improvements in communication between international scientific and political communities. From a "state of the world" perspective, it is clear there will be no shortage of thinking jobs for qualified candidates in this century.
ROI and Jobs
Return-on-investment (ROI) or "payback" as it is sometimes called is a measure of cost-to-benefit used extensively in business to make go/no-go project decisions. From a purely financial perspective, projects with a 2-year simple payback (simple payback is a quick calculation that excludes equipment depreciation, tax implications and other incidental costs) are typically considered excellent investments. One example is the 2-year cumulative cost of installing and operating a factory robot being equal to the cost of labor saved through employee headcount reduction over the same time period.
It is unavoidable that Cedric and similar machines will gradually eliminate manual labor jobs as teleoperated tasks are relegated to autonomous control. In the near future, however, automation based on self-configuring systems promises to become less costly than even offshore manufacturing. Once this technology is proven, the ensuing resurgence in domestic manufacturing will quickly move from being centralized in mid-sized production facilities to being geographically dispersed and run out of very small shops (even home-based, in some cases). A shift to US manufacturing will provide significant savings in the shipping of materials and finished goods while creating jobs in the process. These trends will have a positive impact on economic growth, the environment and even national security.
The cost of compact, mobile machines capable of dexterous telemanipulation, autonomous manipulation, stereoscopic (3-D) video telecommunication and video recording should dip below $15,000 (2008 dollars) within five to seven years. The capability-to-cost ratio for this technology will be unprecedented in a single device. As a result, new services related to security monitoring & intervention, emergency response, televisitation, teletourism, domestic assistance, elder care, entertainment and education will proliferate. New specializations in many business sectors, such as law, intellectual property, insurance, engineering, operations and quality control, will necessarily emerge in response to the impact this disruptive technology will have on society.
Coupling telerobotic cameras with digital information storage dramatically expands the potential for generating new sources of revenue and creating jobs. For example, the widespread use of low-cost camcorders already provides a steady diet of homegrown and amateur footage to a growing reality TV market; Americas Funniest...The Most Dangerous...and so on. Video captured through telepresence and telerobotics operations, however, can go well beyond entertainment value. The opportunities are explored in more detail in the context of health care as described under Cedric in Telemedicine a pull-down selection under Applications.
But it is telerobotic architectural systems that are likely to have the greatest global impact on jobs. We recommend visiting Causes (under the Company navigation button), followed by TRACS and then X-TRACS (a pull-down selection under TRACS) for a brief overview of Page 5's vision of a coming infrastructure renaissance.