The biggest fear most American factory workers have is being replaced by robots. Like it or not, this fear is already turning into a reality. It’s even happening in traditionally white-collar industries like digital production and marketing.
Robotics, or Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already in use in some major ecommerce fulfillment warehouses. While the picking and packing is still done by hand using a human workforce, many operations have been made more efficient by custom-designed robots. AI was originally conceived at Amazon to alleviate the busy holiday shipping season, but now it’s used year-round. In 2019, Amazon announced plans to increase shipping speed by installing machines to box customer orders in some of its warehouses. Robotic technology for accurate product picking is still a ways off.
Industries once considered safe from automation are finding that may not hold up in the future. As self-driving automobiles clear more safety hurdles, truck driving and other freight jobs will likely become obsolete. The information technologies are also becoming more automated with the advent of chat bots and marketing automation software. Once reliable entry-level roles like administrative assistants have also started to fade as executives discover new resources for time management and client reception.
Many at the top will say automating job functions frees up their workforce for more complicated tasks. What if your only task at your job is covered by AI? Even some politicians argue that we should demand more intellectually stimulating work and that automation is a way to give our workforce more career enhancing challenges. That’s great, but what is the likelihood that one displaced from truck driving by AI will be able to secure work as say, a website coder?
Until companies rolling out AI can guarantee their software will work more efficiently than humans, the need for it will level off. By the same token, companies should have an obligation to their loyal workforce that they will not be replaced by robots. Until those things happen, workers will continue to be mistrustful of AI.