Can an AI robot replace a human? We’re getting to the point where technology is so advanced that robots can do many human activities. Discover more today.

A decade ago, AI robots were simply the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, an escape into the world of fantasy. Today, there’s a good chance you’ve interacted with an honest-to-goodness AI robot and didn’t even realize it.

Artificial intelligence in the workplace is becoming increasingly common as businesses experiment with emerging technology. Boosting efficiency and cutting costs have become a longstanding mantra for business across myriad industries. AI robots offer an attractive promise to handle both.
But can an AI robot eventually replace your entire staff? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. It’s also not likely happening anytime soon.

AI Robot Employees Already Exist

Though it sounds like something from the future, AI robots are already making a name in the workplace. Just last year, the Emirates NBD introduced ‘Pepper‘ to several of its branches. The purpose of this artificial intelligence robot is to simplify some areas of banking, such as presenting services and products to customers. Pepper is also an avid participant in promotional marketing events. Pepper’s developers recognize their creation as the first AI robot able to recognize basic emotions. Pepper can adapt its behaviors based on the mood of the human it engages.

AI robots are also becoming increasingly common in medical professions, customer service, and manufacturing. Johnson and Johnson’s release of the Sedasys system allows anesthesia to be delivered to patients receiving basic procedures, such as colonoscopies. One doctor can monitor multiple machines, which is more cost-effective than having a dedicated anesthesiologist on staff.

Customer service is also upgrading to the digital world, offering chatbots and other AI that make it harder to distinguish human from machine.
Manufacturing was among the first industries to implement AI technology, and the trend is continuing to reshape processes and production. Robots are commonly used to assemble and package products. Future aspirations for robots in manufacturing include the ability to handle more complex assemblies, such as homes, electronics, and cars.

In any case, AI robots in their current capacity are still largely monitored by human talent. There’s still a need for human supervision and support, especially for early adopters of AI technology. However, the future looks promising enough for some industries to eventually employ more AI robots than humans.

The Future of AI Employment

AI robot usage in space and other industries are already looking positive. Currently, Russia is developing an AI robot to send to the International Space Station to work on spacewalks and other tasks deemed too dangerous for humans.

Researchers at Bielefeld University have created a grasping system using robot hands. The purpose of this development to enable AI to learn about the objects it touches. Titled “Famula”, this project predicts that robots will be able to adapt to new environments based on its ability to identify objects, much like how human babies learn about new objects. If this level of self-learning technology evolves, an AI robot could easily become a housekeeper, office assistant, retail employee, or another similar worker.

Because of its positive outlook on reducing operating costs, AI is becoming more of a realistic goal than a fantastical aspiration. Research firm Gartner estimates that by 2025, over a third of current jobs will have been replaced by AI technology. AI in the workplace is already growing, but just how far it will expand has yet to be determined.

Bottom Line: Will AI Robots Kill Human Labor As We Know It?

While it’s clear that AI robots in the workplace will force out some human talent, it isn’t quite fair to say that humans are completely replaceable. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020, more than 7 million jobs will have been replaced by automation. This trend isn’t anything new, per se. Technology has a longstanding history of improving efficiencies that will render some jobs obsolete. The only differences now is that these changes are evolving at breakneck speeds and humans are competing against machines of unprecedented capability.

The Upside to a Robot-Focused Workforce

Jobs like knocker-ups, streetlamp lighters, and bowling pinsetters were replaced by more efficient technology. However, the new technology that eliminated these positions paved the way for new jobs to be created. For example, a growing industry in electric streetlamps killed the need for manual lighting. It also created jobs for parts manufacturing, maintenance, and installation of the new technology.

The same thing happened when e-commerce emerged. Businesses were able to reach broader audiences, forcing companies into price wars to compete. Brick and mortar traffic slowed, which led to store closures, bankruptcies, and disappearing companies. However, the creation of online shopping also led to digital marketing, website development, online credit card processing, and several other new niches that otherwise never would have existed.

From this perspective, we can anticipate that introducing more robots with artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly eliminate some human jobs. As a result, it will also create new positions that, at least in the beginning, can only be filled by a real person.

Jobs of the Future predicts one of these “jobs of the future” will include human-technology integration specialist. This position will teach others how to leverage existing technology to the best of its ability, including that of AI.

Another possibility is the need for a robot mediator that helps humans learn to work alongside robot employees and settle human-robot workplace conflict. Even creative type jobs are now in the scope of AI capabilities. An AI experiment in 2011 passed the Turing test by having a poem accepted into a literary journal. This proves that there is potential for robots to develop creative abilities, which could reshape the face of fields like journalism, graphic design, and music as we know it.

Even if future projections about robotic capabilities are accurate, the world will always need a healthy supply of living, breathing talent.

In Closing

It’s odd to think that in the next decade or two, the biggest competition for job seekers won’t be fellow humans. Though commonly found in manufacturing, healthcare, and customer service today, the AI robot has the potential to revolutionize myriad other industries.

The fact remains that AI robot employees have much to learn and perfect bodes well for human labor, for now. Every day brings us closer to new possibilities for a future backed by AI power.

In the meantime, we can prepare ourselves to find cooperation, not competition, in the impending world of man and machine.

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Terence Mills

Terence Mills

As an entrepreneur, marketer, AI pioneer & digital technology specialist, Terence has built eight global enterprises including executive management participation in two public companies, InteliData Technologies and SkyTel Corporation which sold to MCI for $1.8 billion. His ability to harness the power of the internet, AI, and mobile technology to support sound business goals is his secret weapon.