There’s a robot in the future for all of us

I’m catching up on some reading this long weekend at the beach. I’m a few months behind in reading Wired magazine and am going thru the January issue right now. I just read an intriguing article on the coming “robot revolution.” I think that most of us don’t realize how much change the next couple of decades will bring. Even when I reflect on the accelerating tech curve thru the lens of my own 35 year career in IT I think I underestimate it. Robotics has brought us more reliable and more affordable products, and the service sector is next. Manufacturing will, between the combination of robotics and additive manufacturing (3D printing), require ever fewer employees. The service sector will be affected dramatically as these more flexible robots enter fields that have been thought the sole purview of humans. The Dilbert comic has been amusing for the last week or so as Dilbert’s programming job has come into the robotic crosshairs. I hope that the future does lean toward the Gene Roddenberry vision of people spending their lives doing what they want to do, rather than what they have to do, instead of any of a myriad dystopian views.

The lack of understanding of the magnitude of impending change is one of the things that irks me about politics today. Manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back, and services will take fewer people. I was reading in Thursday’s NYTimes that new radiologists are saddled with education debt and dim job prospects, due to technological change. We need better education in all disciplines, from STEM curricula to classics. STEM to help our kids compete in an increasingly technological world, and the liberal arts to make them better and more rounded people, to find satisfaction in music and arts in Gene’s future. We sure don’t need to shortchange education funding and basic research.

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