Robots and the future part 2

Last week, I invited Professor Tanaka, an expert in robotics from Japan to give a lecture in my class. Following is what he said:

“Today everyone is talking about Robots taking over human jobs and soon there is no more job for people. Some people are worried, but others do not think it will happen. The fact is it will happen sooner or later. But the question is how do we deal with this automation trend? How do we learn new skills to take advantage of this automation trend? We need to know what jobs will get destroyed and what jobs will be created and what skills will be required?

Wikipedia: iCub is physically anthropomorphic (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

If you look back in the last fifty years, we could see that the third Industrial Revolution had destroyed millions of jobs such as manufacturing and agriculture labor jobs. At the same time, many millions of jobs also got created in electronics, hardware, and software. The same thing will happen with several millions of jobs that will get created as part of the automation trends.

Today, robots are still simple machines, but with Artificial Intelligence, robots will getting smarter and could do more things that we never imagine that they could. In the next few years, we will see more “smart robots” that can perform tasks very close to a person. You already see robots win Chess game and even beat human in the “Go” strategic game, but it is only the beginning. At Carnegie Mellon, I have also seen Robots learn to cheat each other because your professors had programmed them using “Deep learning” and “Artificial Intelligence” algorithms.

Basically, robots are getting smarter but they never getting smarter than a human, I can assure you of that. As long as humans continue to learn and be creative, they can beat any robots. Forget what the movies tell you, they are science fiction and will never happen. But what you need is to learn more so you can control these robots. If you are interested in learning about the future jobs in robotics, let me share with you of what I think.

There is a massive need for robot creators or people who conceptualize the ideas to create new robots. This job requires the ability to visualize some problems in a situation, and apply hardware, mechanical, and software skills to exploring the possibility of solving the problem using robots. Of course, this is not a one-person job but a team of hardware, software, and mechanical engineers to work together. If you study hardware, mechanical, and software, then your job will be in high demand.

The next job which also has high demand is robotic trainers or people who train robots. For Robots to understand humans, we need robotic trainers to teach Natural Language Processing so robots can understand what you tell them to do. In the future robots must learn to recognize the human voice as command will be given verbally. The simple example is the Amazon’s Echo when you tell the “Alexa agents” to listen and follow your voice. If you learn computer science, you should take classes in natural language processing and speech technology then your skills will be in high demand.

There is a new job called “robot testers” which also have high demand. This is not hardware or software testing but people who play with robots to make sure the robots will do what they should do. Companies that build robots need hundred thousands of these people because they are responsible for what their robots do. For example, robots that build cars must do exactly what they are created to do and not make mistakes. A small mistake in assembly lines could cost million dollars or generate accident, so robot testers are also in high demand. Most of this jobs will only require a high school education with additional few months of training. If you like to play with robots, tell the robots what to do, then this is an excellent job to have.

Robot repairs: As more robots are being created, there is a need for people who can repair robots. Robots are nothing but sophisticated machines, and they will need to be fixed over time. It is estimated that the world will need several thousand or even million repair persons. Unlike cars maintenance, robotic repairs consist of a team of many workers from mechanical, electrical, hardware, and software. Most of these jobs will only require a high school education with additional training.

In the next few years, there will be more robots all over the world. Whether you like it or not, it will happen. I think in a few more years, most labor jobs will be gone, and manufacturing jobs will change significantly. Manual works will be the things of the past and “labor workers” will be replaced by “knowledge workers” or people who skills are their knowledge. In this future world, education is the most important investment for any human being. There will be a million jobs lost every year, but million new jobs will also be created. It is up to you to take advantage of this situation by learning new skills. Or you can sit an wait until the robots come and take your job away. After all, It is your choice.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University