For decades people have claimed that the introduction of robots into the workforce would result in lost jobs for us humans. While this may be true to some extent we still see that robots have yet too completely take over jobs in manufacturing, service and other industries where they can more affordable replace humans. But the question remains – why not?
Last week, John Danaher wrote an article highlighting some reasons as to why humans still work side by side. In his article Danaher cites the complementarity effect, which basically says that instead of having a zero-sum system, the addition of robots to the work force actually improves the worker/robot relationship, making it a positive-sum game; as the robot gets better humans don’t lose out and we all gain from it.
The reason being that many jobs are complex, and we don’t quite have the technology as to where a robot can efficiently, and without numerous errors, perform the job as well as a human. For example, if a robot were to be waiting tables it may have a hard time adjusting to customer demands on the fly, whereas a human could more easily adjust orders and the likes. At the same time, the robot is unable to switch between simply taking orders and keeping customers happy at the same time, something that human waiters and waitresses have to excel at.
With all of this being said, Danaher seems to stress the importance of the complimentary effect and how humans can work along side robots to produce goods and take care of jobs more efficiently: Where robots can take care of repetitive and mundane tasks and humans can fill positions that require more flexibility.
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