Robotics will shape the future of work

Written by David Casa on 11 December 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

While some may fear robotics will lead to job losses, David Casa argues they will be a positive development for our labour markets.

David Casa | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


At first, the thought of robotics and automation within our workforce might make some uneasy. There is a real fear that this may eat away at a few existing jobs. This will, in some cases, be inevitable, but other jobs will emerge to replace those lost to new technologies. The integration of robotics and automation in the labour market is a necessary and unavoidable development. 

As technology changes and grows in its reach and function, it is natural that it will become more applicable to peoples’ everyday lives, and most importantly, to the workforce. The workforce itself has been evolving recently through these technologies.

Robotic technology and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used for a number of tasks, in a range of sectors. Robotic technology can help improve precision in the field of medicine, perform efficiently jobs in the field of logistics, and undertake dangerous jobs in the field of construction and chemical industries.


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While machines can perform tasks that the human body simply cannot, they also require the intelligence of people to operate them. The future of the labour market is AI and people working together. Only this way can robotic technology and people continue to develop and benefit from each other.

The partnering of people with robotic technology in the labour market is the key to understanding the future of the EU. It will not only lead the EU to the forefront of high-tech advances, it also has the potential to create jobs. The use of AI will greatly increase a company’s productivity.

Of course, there are a number of critics of using robotic technology at work. Many believe artificial intelligence will actually take jobs away from our workforce. There cannot be development and improvement without change. Yes, there will be job displacement with the introduction of more technology in the workplace, but that displacement will not be immediate, nor will it be devastating.

As the technology is introduced to work settings and the jobs it takes over no longer require humans, the people that would have worked those jobs will be trained with other skills for different jobs.

This is one way the increased use of robotics in the labour market will expand it and expand productivity. Robotics will create different demands in the labour industry. Artificial intelligence will complement human labour, not replace it.

Another concern is that the technology available is too dangerous for the work environment. The increased use of technology in the workplace will lead to further regulations and safety procedures. The EU and companies’ priority will be safety first. No new technology becomes an industry fixture before it has undergone thorough testing. The same will be true for robotic technology in the future of the labour industry.

I implore those that believe that the negatives outweigh the positives of artificial intelligence to look to the past. So many technological advances we now take for granted were condemned at the time of their innovation, such as cars and modern medicine. With patience, they were created, tested, refi ned and put to work helping mankind. The same can be true for advancements in robotic technology.

Concerns for safety and job loss are, of course, valid. The key to creating a safe work environment will be to set a precedent of intelligent and efficient regulations on robotics and artificial intelligence technologies before we are overrun by the enthusiasm of these new and exciting technologies.

Technological advances are inevitable so it is vital that we figure out their logistics now. If the EU decides now how it will deal with these technologies, then the rest of the world will follow suit. To soften the blow of job displacement, it is critical that the labour transition is a slow and careful process. If it is introduced cautiously, particularly in the form of educating upcoming workers on new technologies, it will create a gradual learning curve that will minimise the displacement.

We can both approach the situation cautiously and still reap the benefits of developing robotic technologies.

Investing in robotics and artificial intelligence and a multi-skilled workforce will make Europe a leader and a model in the worlds of employment, particularly in the labour market, and in technological advancements.

The EU will stand at the centre of the world stage as an era of melding robotics and labour brings about improved employment and economics for decades to come.

 

About the author

David Casa (EPP, MT) is a member of Parliament’s employment and home affairs committee

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