Imagine robots dispensing your morning coffee, stopping traffic so you can cross the street, and then transporting you to your place of work/residence. Sounds extraordinary, doesn’t it? Good, it shouldn’t. This is more or less what happens every day. You can get your morning beverage from a vending machine, wait for a traffic light, and then take an elevator up to your floor. Sure it’s not a complete ride to your work or residence, but you can see how a few adjustments here and there could make it so. Machines are going to take over the “blue collar” and other automatable work forces, freeing up the human race to do what we do best – imagine.
To start, machines are cheap. The initial investment might be considerable, but, over time, the investment will almost assuredly pay off. The maintenance costs can add up and there’s always the allure of the newest generation, but even with those costs, a shrewd machine owner can save a modest sum over an hourly wage. Not to mention the absence of machine worker unions, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some machine rights activist groups began to pop up.
A machine is reliable, well, as reliable as its components. A robot doesn’t call in sick, is always on time, and doesn’t gripe about being called in at three in the morning for work, barring component malfunctions, that is. By the same token, it’s extremely accurate. It does exactly what it’s told, even if what we tell it to do isn’t what we want it to do (semantic error). It’s a robot and, because of this, would definitely show an increase in productivity over the average attention-deficit-stricken human. This isn’t to say that they’re better than us, more that they have few ulterior motives – for now.
An opposing argument I get a lot is that machines can’t handle extraneous situations. While they can’t, technically, come up with a solution to a problem off the top of their head (yet), they can be programmed with contingency plans and algorithms to choose the best paradigms of said paradigms as befits the situation. While not a perfect solution, I’d be willing to bet that it’s as good if not better than the decision making process of a human in a stressful situation. Plus there’s always the possibility of taking the machine out of the decision-making process by providing a skilled/trained overseer.
The question isn’t “if” machines take over, but “when.” Companies make more money by automating their processes. As more and more companies begin to do so, it becomes the norm, so new companies will soon follow suit. Eventually the “new car smell” will fade and prices will begin to drop as supply approaches demand. Now smaller franchises will begin to get their hands on the new work force, solidifying the revolution. There’s only one question to ask. What will you use your imagination for?