There's a lot of talk and fear these days about robots taking jobs away from humans. As AI and machine learning grows, we hear more stories of robots replacing humans when it comes to customer service, transportation, financial management, and more and even holding positions on boards of directors and as managers. A report from Forrester found that robots will eliminate 6% of all U.S. jobs by 2021, which can be a cause for concern for employees in at-risk industries like logistics, consumer services, and customer service. Between driverless cars, chatbots, and smart home appliances and concierges like Alexa and Siri, there's lots of room for growth in the AI field that can make life easier, streamline processes, and take humans out of the picture. Some people view it as an opportunity, but for many people it is a serious threat to their current employment.
But here's another way to look at it: instead of robots taking jobs away from humans, what if humans are actually taking jobs away from robots? Consider this: Over the last few decades, companies have been organized to focus on process and maintain the status quo. Between standardized workspaces, rigid rules, and traditional HR programs, the focus was on getting work done and producing results with little thought to the individual employee. We all worked the same schedule, did the same type of work, and took breaks at the same time. If you've ever set foot in a traditional customer service call center, you can tell this is true, as employees simply fill a chair and are easily replaceable by someone else who can work the same schedule. These process-centric, homogeneous jobs are perfect for robots and automation, though we didn't know it at the time. When we created these generic systems we were in effect just creating holding patterns until robotic technology was ready to take over. Just like the old factories full of workers from the 19th and 20th centuries have been replaced in large part by assembly lines and machines once the technology was available, so too are conditions that use humans where robots could easily do the job.
When we think about it that way, it's not AI and robots taking away jobs from humans because humans were only the placeholders in the business framework until AI technology came along that could reclaim the jobs that had been designed for it in the first place. As a result, many organizations today are re-thinking and re-designing what they do with employees. This change creates lots of opportunities for human employees to try something new, branch out into new areas, and take advantage of new changes. Instead of the traditional definition of work as an 8-5 job in a cubicle, we're now expanding our minds to think about work in a variety of ways--it can be anything from the traditional model to a flexible schedule, freelance-based workload, tele-commuting, or working in positions that didn't exist just a few years ago. Now that we are done being placeholders for robots and automation, we can find more creative ways to apply ourselves within our organizations. For all the talk about robots taking away jobs, it is really allowing the us the opportunity to create new jobs and to change and expand how we think about work.
Robots will undoubtedly continue to take over jobs that have long been filled by human placeholders, but them doing so shouldn't be viewed as a threat to humans in the workplace--instead, let's consider it an opportunity for humans to play a more integral role in our organizations.
To learn more watch Humans Are Taking Jobs Away From Robots