Letters to the editor

Apr 14 2014, 04:18 IST
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SummaryThis refers to your editorial ‘Robotrise’ (FE, April 1). Look at robotics this way.

Robot rise

This refers to your editorial ‘Robotrise’ (FE, April 1). Look at robotics this way. Producers and investors look for robots to automate work—but they can never get robots to purchase their wares. The pie-man requires a

Simon, not an ASIMO. Machines are going to replace humans not just in industrial workplaces, but households too. A recent study by academics from the Oxford university argues that 47% of today’s jobs could be replaced by robots in another 20 years! It is tempting to think that it is repetitive work that will get replaced, but no. Intelligent robots would replace work requiring decision-making too. Being educated and holding a degree doesn’t mean insulation from job loss due to automation. Then, there are the semi-intelligent processes like processing bills, sorting goods based on categories, etc. Manual labour engaged in labelling, stacking and packing in retail outlets, warehouses, etc, too could come under threat. Amazon and WalMart lead the way in automating business. If Luddites in one area block the inevitable advent of technological change, then it will migrate to a place where it is welcome—and from there, things are going to get shipped out cheaper and better. This only disadvantages the resisting entity. The best way ahead is to embrace the change, as it is everywhere. First, change the system of education. Today’s rote learning needs to be supplanted with a curriculum that fosters creativity. Yet, people must remember that education is no panacea—it may turn out that they still rely on government assistance later. They must keep themselves fully informed and understand that the future would be about more machines doing jobs. Two, governments, world over, have the responsibility to ensure that the transition from human labour to robotics happens smoothly. Raising taxes or minimum wage would be counterproductive. Doing more with less would be the trick, world over, for governments. Third, raising awareness about automation helps people feel secure and ensures social stability. People must be informed that their survival is not threatened because of machines, and that the government would intervene if and when necessary. The silver lining here is that the economy requires people to consume what is produced. Robots will not be purchasing iPhones,laptops or sandwiches—at least, not for their own use. The consumer base will always be humans. That people can reskill is another advantage. To this extent, at least, we are safe. Some fun trivia:

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