You may have read the article published recently about Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China, and their open-source thinking with continual forward motion in advancements and a reduction in production costs with every generation of hardware and software components that are developed and put into the manufacturing process for mass production of cheap electronic components.
In the early days when the first mega factories were built and the fruition of electronics manufacturing was realized, many human workers took up their places at different workstations along the sides of constantly moving conveyor belts building up products component by component, some advanced electronic boards would have been partially automated due to the tiny and delicate components but for the most past devices and hardware were finished by human hands.
Manufacturing lines can have hundreds of individuals working away together to push out products that are sometimes taken for granted by consumers all over the world, but still, the volume of hardware including computing, entertainment devices, and smart toys were pushed out regardless.
With the advancements of automation including robotics the tide changed with the individual workers and their working practices, slowly but surely the long production lines of soft celled humans became less in numbers as machines took over their individual jobs. There is an outlay of expense with installing and operating these machines but once in place and configured correctly they work flawlessly for the most part and do not tire, slow down or make occasional mistakes like their human counterparts can do.
One by one the human workers were replaced by ever more machines, as the tech moved on the factory engineers then went on to create automated machines that could do more than one job, the machines could change their own tooling points replacing specialized parts for production automatically when needed being able to do multiple jobs and with this, less and less manual workers were required, machines now have multiple tooling points that work together to produce products and so less of these machines are required overall.
It has got to a point now where in some electronics manufacturing plants whole production lines of human workers have been replaced by a handful of automated production robots, some mobile phones and smart devices are now created entirely by this process with just one lonely quality control technician inspecting the finished device at the end of the production line before giving the all-clear for packing and despatch.
The machines including automated production robots still require engineers to keep an eye on them and update them for different jobs, sometimes changing tooling parts but other than that they are set and forget devices that don’t need to take breaks and never tire out running day and night nonstop.
The term “robots are taking over” is very real and there is just no stopping them now, in fact, robots are now building robots even passing Artificial Intelligence on that advances in every generation.
It is not only in advanced electronic production plants that robots are taking the place of humans. Amazon has automated smart robots that bring products to human pickers for orders which suffer fewer mistakes and picking of wrong products that can be costly in time and resources. It does not stop there as even commercial and residential waste in kerbside collections are processed by automatic systems that were initially taught by humans but can now recognize different forms of waste cutting out the need for humans to do the dirty work, this also extends to dangerous handling of goods including biological and nuclear waste like those of nuclear waste fuel processing plants like that of Sellafield and the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement (NSC) in Ukraine with the decommissioning of Reactor number four that is estimated to take some 40 years to complete.
Robots have been used at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Daiichi Japan to investigate hard-to-reach areas with very high radiation levels that would kill humans in just a few hours.
In this world robots and automated systems have very real and useful jobs but they are also well on the way to replacing humans and this is happening at an alarming rate.
Us humans as so used to this way of life and thinking even with asking devices for advice like that of internet searches with our voices and then taking up advice which is returned to us.
There are still jobs that are safe for now from automation:
- Aerospace engineers design aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and missiles building and testing prototypes to make sure they function correctly (after being ran on computer simulations).
- Automotive body repairs and glass fixing require a skill and thought train that is just not possible (right now) with robots as the eye is key to a perfect finish.
- Truck, bus, train and car diesel engine fitters require a dextrous handling of components and human decision making to determine the possible problems then repair accordingly. With the advent of electric vehicles less and less human mechanics are required as there are less components and as in a modular form are simple to handle for robots.
- Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians that are mobile in nature and travel to different jobs then decide on the best form of action, manual procedures for installing are required and many jobs are different in nature requiring different skillsets and decision making.
- Teachers at junior and high schools are adaptive and can see the quality of students work as well as paying attention to those that are not excelling so well then devoting extra time to those in need. Computers are in every classroom now and are a good learning tool but they often do not offer the same interactions as a human.
- Telecommunications and electrical line workers are safe from now from automatic processes but this could be slowing down with the advancement of drone technology.
- Surgeons, nurses and midwives connect with their patients to have a human to human connection deciding on routes of treatment as well as supporting the patient emotionally. There are devices used for surgeries as in key hole, radiotherapy cancer treatment and life support systems but these cannot replace the human skills, knowledge and experience involved at most stages of healthcare.
- Occupational therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists who treat injured, mentally ill and disabled patients as well as those recovering from neurological conditions such as with strokes or after accidents rehabilitating them to develop, recover and improve the very real skills needed to maintain a daily living and working life.
- Writers and authors translate human thoughts and feelings into meaningful, educational and entertaining works, AI systems can create sheets of text but they often do not make sense cannot leave between the lines messages and a sense of realism as well as simplified explanations to really drive the message home.
There are still many jobs and occupations that cannot be replaced by robots (just yet) but with every advancement of technology, this point is coming. Even at the job application stage, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are utilized to help sort the suitable resumes from the ones that are not which removes the initial human decision making and choices but due to the sheer volume of applications for jobs this is the way things have gone.
Robots and automated systems including those of AI have created a more efficient world all around us but at the same time taken peoples jobs and perhaps gone toward workers losing key skills never being able to get back into generations of specialized work and being forced to find other forms of employment but without these automation and never-ceasing systems the world we live in just work not be the same.