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Will Humanoid Robots Take All the Jobs by 2050?

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the metal-man dept.

Technology 1457

Anonymous writes "Marshall Brain (the guy who started HowStuffWorks) has published an article claiming that robots will take half the jobs in the U.S. by 2050. Some of his predictions: real computer vision systems by 2020, computers with the CPU power and memory of the human brain by 2040, completely robotic fast food restaurants in 2030 (which then unemploy 3.5 million people), etc. It's a pretty astounding article. My question: How many people on /. think he is right (or even close - let's say he's off by 10 or 20 years)? Or is he full of it?"

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maybe 100 years.... (5, Insightful)

sweeney37 (325921) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520445)

I will make this prediction: by 2008, every meal in every fast food restaurant will be ordered from a kiosk like this, or from a similar system embedded in each table.

Yeah, I'm going to go with a no on this one. Everyone said the same thing when ATMs came around, "Oh no, they're going to replace actual tellers!" But it didn't, banks still hire quite frequently for bank tellers.

I'm not saying these kiosks aren't going to become more prevalent, but they won't replace actual human contact. Having previously worked in many service related jobs I know that people (especially older adults) will not allow this to occur. We all need to be able to talk to an actual human every once in a while. Computers don't care if you yell. Could you imagine the amount of complaints McDonalds would get?

With this being said, I love automated services such as "Pay-at-the-Pump" and especially self-checkout at the grocery stores. It's not that I'm some hermit who likes no human contact, but who wants to make idle chit-chat with some register jockey?


Re:maybe 100 years.... (4, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520511)

I'd have to agree with this. I'm sure that we could have the technology on the timescale suggested, I have full confidence in human ingenuity we could quite possibly have human brain level processors in 40 years. The real question is would we allow them to take over 50% of all jobs?

Just because the technology is there does not mean people will want to use it.

Re:maybe 100 years.... (5, Insightful)

diersing (679767) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520516)

ATM replacing bank tellers. eTickets replacing airport personnel. Self checkout at the grocery store. Sure, it has prolly reduced the number of people working those teller/clerk positions and I'm sure on a very small scale its contributed to the unemployment rate. Aside from businesses trying to reduce costs, the government will be trying to create jobs elsewhere. If we, has a people, can automate the mundane, in theory, it would free the rest of us to create, inspire, and innovate. Ahh, its just a theory.

Re:maybe 100 years.... (1)

zero_offset (200586) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520554)

Actually McDonalds in particular is moving in this direction. They recently announced a plan to pilot automated order taking (with humans available at the same locations... for now). Hell, I bet any given McDonald's manager would rather run a store full of machines.

I like pay at the pump too, but so far I haven't seen a self-checkout that works very well. I'd rather pay for a drone to bag my groceries for me. But then, I'm slowly turning into an old bastard. :)

Re:maybe 100 years.... (2, Interesting)

georgep77 (97111) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520556)

I've noticed that at movie theatres more people are using the "self service" kiosks than going up to the cashier/attendants for their movie tickets. The next thing will be automated refreshments (popcorn/soda). I'm certain that more and more automation will take place in the service industries. I have no idea on the timeline though. I though that we would be "cashless" by the early 2000s but it hasn't happened yet.


What bank do you use? (5, Insightful)

dachshund (300733) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520569)

Everyone said the same thing when ATMs came around, "Oh no, they're going to replace actual tellers!" But it didn't, banks still hire quite frequently for bank tellers.

What bank do you use? Many of the banks in my area have reduced teller hours to the point where most working people can't use them. Some have instituted fees for seeing an actual person.

Others (my neighborhood Washington Mutual) have so completely automated the process of withdrawals and deposits with special kiosks, that actual human presence in a bank is much lower than it ever was when I was growing up. You go to one kiosk to prepare your deposit, and another to withdraw cash. The actual teller transaction, if necessary at all, is minimized. And tellers double as customer-service people, opening new accounts and the like-- one of the few remaining tasks that isn't machine automatable.

Then there are online banks like ETrade, which seem to do ok with no human contact at all.

So no, humans haven't been written out of the equation. But their numbers have been substantially reduced, and the process is a long ways from complete.

Re:maybe 100 years.... (0)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520594)

register jockey? where the hell are you from?

here in So jersey, it's pump monkey
in north jersey I hear it's gas monkey(too many strip clubs to use pump monkey safely I think)

Re:maybe 100 years.... (4, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520595)

The common mistake when people talk about efficiency improvements that result in "lost jobs" is that the same dynamic forces that made those changes also open up opportunities for new jobs that were previously unanticipated. Who would have thought years ago that today we'd have airline customer service reps who work out of their own home (ATA, I believe), supply chain specialists coordinating the efforts of several companies in the creation of a product, or a niche industry of boutique personal PC manufacturers who create customized and stylized computers for the consumer market?

In short, the story's much more complicated than simple "jobs lost."

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What About Instict? (4, Insightful)

yoey (247125) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520448)

"Who will be the first large group of employees to be completely automated out of their jobs by robots? Chances are that it will be pilots."

Uh, uh. No way, no how. In case of an emergency onboard an aircraft I will literally bet my life on the instincts of a human being over the computational prowess of machine.

Re:What About Instict? (1)

FiggyBottom (681015) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520559)

"I will literally bet my life on the instincts of a human being over the computational prowess of machine." I thought we are machines, just carbon and not silicon.

Re:What About Instict? (1)

deman1985 (684265) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520615)

I can see the application of having more intelligent autopilot systems on aircraft, but I would have to agree with you that I would never allow a machine to take over the role as the primary pilot of an aircraft I'm riding.

This is especially true in the aspect of terrorism... If they take control of the flight computer, then even if passengers overpower them, what are they supposed to do after that? Nobody will know how to fly, even if the controls are still there to do so.

Re:What About Instict? (5, Informative)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520617)

In a fly-by-wire aircraft (which is a lot of recent large passenger planes) you already bet it on the computational prowess of machine. It might be (is) several machines with different software comparing/contrasting/voting and monitoring each other, but machine it is - and if it decides the engines won't throttle up, then they won't, no matter how hard the pilot pushes the stick.

Re:What About Instict? (3, Informative)

will_die (586523) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520618)

Better not fly on an Airbus.
They are already using computers to limit what the pilot can do. [nwsource.com]

Re:What About Instict? (1)

nick255 (139962) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520629)

Uh, uh. No way, no how. In case of an emergency onboard an aircraft I will literally bet my life on the instincts of a human being over the computational prowess of machine.

Except almost all recent aircraft near misses have been caused when the pilots have disabled or ignored automatic devices for avoiding collisions and judged using their own instincts. Computers these days are quite effective and making important decisions.

At Least (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520451)

One good thing about this...

At least robots smell better than Indians and Russians.

"I for to be taking your job now!!". "THAT DOES NOT COMPUTE" *KABOOM*

Re:At Least (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520593)

it was a good one, admit it. Dont be a sheep, MOD UP!

In the future. . . (2, Funny)

Robert Hopson (627562) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520453)

there will be robots.

For more information (2, Interesting)

Ann Coulter (614889) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520458)

Watch the Animatrix [intothematrix.com] : The Second Renaissance part 1 and 2.

Brave New World (5, Insightful)

mandalayx (674042) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520461)

The arrival of humanoid robots should be a cause for celebration. With the robots doing most of the work, it should be possible for everyone to go on perpetual vacation. Instead, robots will displace millions of employees, leaving them unable to find work and therefore destitute. I believe that it is time to start rethinking our economy and understanding how we will allow people to live their lives in a robotic nation.

Does anyone else see Brave New World here? Artificial industries created in allowing humans to be free of worry and work...merely players in a game whose goal is to increase consumption.

Worrying stuff. Now where's my soma..

Re:Brave New World (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520557)

You worry too much. Have a Paxil.

Re:Brave New World (1)

Branc0 (580914) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520621)

How will I get money?

If i don't work, i don't get payed... if I don't get payed... how am i supposed to buy anything?

fast food workers (4, Funny)

noah_fense (593142) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520464)

I thought all our fast food workers already were robots.

Re:fast food workers (3, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520560)

I thought all our fast food workers already were robots.

They are. [hektik.org]

Gulp... (1)

Bendy Chief (633679) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520466)

Time to watch "The Second Renaissance" for a list of things NOT to do to our soon-to-be computer overlords. ;)

This article is dumb (5, Interesting)

mjmalone (677326) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520468)

This article is absolutely rediculous. How do you make a connection between a kiosk where you can order food at McDonalds and robots taking over every job in the United States? First of all, I don't think a fast food resteraunt could be completely automated. Machines are good at things like accounting, but when it comes to human interaction there is a lot of room for improvement.

Autonomous humanoid robots will take disruption to a whole new level. Once fully-autonomous, general-purpose humanoid robots are as easy to buy as an automobile, most people in the economy will not be able to make the labor = money trade anymore. They will have no way to earn money, and that means they end up homeless and on welfare.

This is horseshit. First of all it is impossible, if most people in the economy were on welfare they would be no economy. Where would these companies get money to build and maintain the robots? I don't disagree that there will probably be a lot of automated systems in the near future, but this article is just stupid.

Re:This article is dumb (1)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520563)

How do you make a connection between a kiosk where you can order food at McDonalds and robots taking over every job in the United States?

By projecting 47 years into the future, during which just about anything can, and probably will, happen. ;-) Futurists (and fake psychics) do it all the time.

It even easier when you project, like, 200 years into the future. No one currently alive will be around to say you were wrong (barring major any major gerontology revolutions).

Prediction: By the year 2203, the sun will regularly shine out of people's asses. See? It's easy! Prove me wrong. Prove some sort of weird, quantum subspace thingy won't someday be able to visually connect the sun's coronasphere with the colon.

Re:This article is dumb (1)

TheDredd (529506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520616)

Well, if there's any food chain that will be automated completely first it will be the fast food chain, just last week I'd try to order a Coke at the McDonalds without ice.
Trying to get those monkeys to understand that you do not want them to put the ice in the cup.
And they will tell you it is impossible.

Perfect machine work if you ask me

Who will shop at these restaurants? (1)

maddskillz (207500) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520474)

If robots take over most of the jobs, is anyone actually going to be able to by the products produced? It sounds like a great deal, to not pay employees, but people without jobs don't make the greatest consumers. Once they quit buying stuff, we will have a bunch of unemployed robots

Don't think so (4, Insightful)

deman1985 (684265) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520475)

The problem with most of these predictions is that there are claims of robots taking over service jobs, which I find highly doubtful. People don't like interacting with robots-- that's why automated call answering systems piss people off so much when they call their favorite stores or businesses. I can see robotic technology taking over some other hard labor jobs once the intelligence is there, and perhaps assisting in some of the engineering areas, but not in the numbers he's talking about, and not as soon.

Well.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520476)

.. Will H1B Robots take all the jobs by 2055?

Hooray! Jon Katz is back! (nt) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520478)


Moore's Law (4, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520479)

Pretty much all this analysis assumes that Moore's Law will keep going indefinitely. As soon as that runs out of steam, computer technology will advance far more slowly, and any advances that seemed to be just ten years off will be shunted off to the far future.

Re:Moore's Law (3, Insightful)

IWorkForMorons (679120) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520592)

Yeah...until quantum computer comes along. Same goes with a lot of the non-volitile memory work being done. Changing the properties of plasics and other materials at the molecular level to increase it's usefullness is going to be a major area of development. The next revolution will not be computers. It will be nanotech. Computers, and a whole range of other products, will just be a beneficiary of the discoveries.

Death of outsourcing??? (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520480)

there must come a time when everything that can be outsourced, has, and everywhere than could be outsourced to is just as expensive as home labour. This will then be the spur to finally robotise jobs and give us all the life of leisure promised in those film from the 50's and 60's...

Re:Death of outsourcing??? (1)

PhotoBoy (684898) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520561)

What happens when they start outsourcing robot jobs to cheaper overseas robots though? Call centre robots in India are much cheaper and don't have a big union lobby.

We'll have sober, unemployed Benders walking the streets begging for change... or just picking our pockets.

We NEED to start planning for this by starting construction of suicide booths and soylent green factories now, before it's too late.

Predict the future by looking at the past (5, Interesting)

pez (54) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520481)

There are two ways to look at this issue; one
is to make forward-looking predictions which are
justified with little more than hand-waiving
arguments, and the other to look at past
history and see what type of hand-waiving
arguments of days gone by have actually come
to fruition.

The author touches on the issue, but IMO is
comparing apples to oranges in this quote:

Imagine this. Imagine that you could
travel back in time to the year 1900. Imagine
that you stand on a soap box on a city street
corner in 1900 and you say to the gathering
crowd, "By 1955, people will be flying at
supersonic speeds in sleek aircraft and
traveling coast to coast in just a few
hours." In 1900, it would have been insane to
suggest that. In 1900, airplanes did not even
exist. Orville and Wilbur did not make the
first flight until 1903. The Model T Ford did
not appear until 1909.

Rather than talk about airplanes, let's talk
about robotics since that's the subject of the
article. Off the top of my head, the
industries in which robots have dominated
more than any other are in chip fabs and
automobile assembly lines, and this has been
the case for over a decade. Are we seeing
the type of doomsday scenario for the
workforce that this article implies?

Predictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520483)

Hopefully we can get some robots editing slashdot, maybe we will get better stories?? (Or more accurately: blog entries)?

He's not full of it, but he's wrong (1)

akiaki007 (148804) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520484)

So, which Labor union or lobbiest group will let something like this happen? Hey, if I can't eat peanuts in the airplanes, then I'll be damn sure that there won't be a swarm of robots taking over jobs.

Sure, some will. Fast food restaurants, perhaps, but not entirely. What? You want robots to make real-world decisions? You want humans to lose power of the world. Gimme a break. Why in the world would humans let another creature make wordly important decisions.

Won't happen because we won't let it.

Re:He's not full of it, but he's wrong (1)

bigjnsa500 (575392) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520526)

This will happen because human beings are completely lazy creatures. Why do we have the remote control? Microwave dinners? Drive a car when we live 1 mile from work?

Hmmm.. maybe this Skynet thing isn't just in a movie after all.

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Maintenance? (1, Flamebait)

neosake (655724) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520489)

We may lose millions of McD jobs, but think about the jobs created building, maintaining and recycling [slashdot.org] these robots once they're through.

Re:Maintenance? (1)

Winterblink (575267) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520520)

You underestimate the inherent laziness of man. In all likelihood that job would also be automated and handled by other robots.

Re:Maintenance? (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520558)

yet more robots to maintain them??? If they can replace a human then they can assemble and maintain themselves... Shades of Skynet here... humans will be redundant.

Things will shift (2, Insightful)

craigtay (638170) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520491)

And then think of all the jobs that will go to maintaining the robots, creating them, programming them.. etc.. Jobs will shift as they have in the past. Jobs will be lost and jobs in other sectors will be created.

But.. (2, Funny)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520496)

The question is will the robots be imported from India ?

Thank you, Kurt Vonnegut (1)

dewboy (22280) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520500)

Sounds a lot like "Player Piano"... which came out in the 1950's. Eerie.

3.5 million (5, Insightful)

roalt (534265) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520501)

Some of his predictions: (...) (which then unemploy 3.5 million people), etc.

In other news, the estimate number of people in development, production and support of intelligent robots in the year 2030 is ... 3.5 millon people.

Working time reduction (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520502)

Perhaps this would be a reason why some countries have decided to reduce working hours [info-france-usa.org] ?

No, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520504)

the Chinese, Russians and Indians will

Robot workers are all well and good (2, Funny)

billmaly (212308) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520506)

But, when I take Elroy and Judy to school, I'll want to do so in a round flying car. Come see me about the flying car, then we'll talk robots.

No, Mr. Spacely, I'm not posting to /.. I'm hard at work sticking it to Cogswell!!!

1950 (1)

Ian 0x57 (688051) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520508)

they said the same damn stuff in 1950, however I am not driving a flying car yet. Computers should have made our lives easier, but that didn't happen either.

Re:1950 (1)

buzban (227721) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520548)

spot on! every time i see one of those pictures of helicopters everywhere, monorails throughout the cities, flying cars, etc., i just have to chuckle.

we're no more going to put ourselves out of work wholesale by 2050 than we ran out of food to feed the world last century (or will in the next).

Will Humanoid Robots Take All the Jobs by 2050? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520512)

No, Indian software engineers will. :-)

Not taking jobs... (1)

brucmack (572780) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520518)

If this were to happen, it won't really be a bad thing...

Yes, if suddenly half of the jobs in the world were gone, there would be a painful adjustment period. However, if this is to happen, there would be a corresponding change in the way our society is structured to accomodate the lower amount of jobs.

Consider this... let's say absolutely everything in the world relating to food is automated. Everything is grown for us, shipped to us, prepared for us, etc. automatically. How much is food going to cost? Practically nothing. So people aren't going to go hungry because they don't have work, etc.

This isn't so much taking jobs away as making the idea of working obsolete... Imagine a world where everybody is on vacation all the time and robots do everything for us... Are people going to be worried about being unemployed? I wouldn't be :)

Not humanoid robots though (3, Interesting)

master_p (608214) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520519)

I agree with the article. We are going to see more and this type of automation. The type that the article describes.

But I don't think lt Data will be around any time soon. the AI development is very slow, to the point that all predictions about clever machines retracted.

robot maker (1)

News for nerds (448130) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520525)

Now this year's recruitment interview of heavy industries with robotic science department (Honda, Sony, ...) will be filled with geeks obsessed by unemployment nightmare.

Uh.. Miminum wage vs. robot maintenance? (1)

inburito (89603) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520530)

I suppose these humanoid robots also maintain themselves for free... Or maybe it is still cheaper to pay mimimum wage.

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Don't worry. (1)

Dark Lord Seth (584963) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520532)

Every robot needs three mechanics and two programmers chasing it around as no robot manufacturer can ever settle on a standard and all robots are pushed into service running alpha firmware and drivers that are incomplete because of patented parts.

That said, I'm off to patent "int main ( int argc, char * const argv[] )" so I guess I'll see most of you folks in court by the end of the week, tata :)

Of course not... (1)

angst7 (62954) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520533)

Everyone knows that humanoid robots will first take over only sex-industry jobs... Only then will we all be too distracted to stop the real takeover.

Simply, NO. (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520535)

Only after answering these questions to the extreme, can we do this:

1: How does the brain work?
2: How does the brain handle failures?
3: How can we interface hardware to the brain? Provide data transfers?
4: Provide a learning, crash-resistant OS
5: Provide very low, or no, heat CPU (your brain doesnt stay at 120F, does it?)
6: Use Quantum computing for branch logic
7: Understand Node/Traffic theory 100% mathematically
8: Provide some sort of emotion (all jobs include psychology, doesnt it?)
9: Easy way to rapidly fix either mechanical or hardware problems (thinking of nanite soup)
10: Energy dense source for battery power. And remember, Bayttery power has NOT increased linearly with CPU power.

Those are just a few things off the top of my head. And if you think we can overcome every one of those, I want some what you're taking.

Business As Usual (1)

0tim0 (181143) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520539)

The problem is that these systems will also eliminate jobs in massive numbers. As a nation, we have no way to understand or handle the level of unemployment that we will see in our economy over the next several decades.

Every year the productivity of the US (and most developed countries) improves. What that means is that it takes less manpower to do things. What it also means it that a person can produce more. Which means they can buy more. Which opens or expands other industries. Which creates more jobs.

None of this is new. When ATMs came out did you see bank tellers starving in the streets? When automated gas stations becames popular were gas attendants staning in line at the soup kitchen? No.

When fast food workers are replaced by machines, they'll go on to do more productive things -- and I'm sure they'll be happier for it.

Personally I love automated check-out lines. I'm only upset that technology isn't moving fast enough.


Either he is arrogant.... (1)

Chris_Stankowitz (612232) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520540)

and hasn't realized that computers have far surpassed mans computing power and memory or he meant to say anlyitical capabilities. Either way, statements like the following crop up ever so often. I think many are just saying stuff and hoping they will be right so that years he can look back and say. "See, I said it first"

"...computers with the CPU power and memory of the human brain by 2040"

is it any wonder (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520542)

that they can replace fast food workers ten years before they can match the capacity of the human brain?

Robot won't take all the jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520547)

Robots will simply take over the sex industry. The remainder of human jobs will remain unfilled as no one will have need to leave the house anymore.

Human Factor (2, Interesting)

RetiefUnwound (472931) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520549)

Something he doesn't seem to be figuring in here is that there are significant number of professions where:

a) people would be uncomfortable in interacting with machine services (i.e. a robotic dentist or gynecologist), or

b) there are protectections by labor union and/or political interests and therefore unlikely to convert to full automation - even in the interest of increased efficiency (a good example would be the United Auto Workers).

Yes, but even worse... (5, Funny)

Shoten (260439) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520551)

By 2060, half of THOSE jobs will be outsourced to robots in India!

I think... (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520553)

...that someone needs to lay off watching The Animatrix for a while.

robots (1)

ibmman85 (643041) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520555)

anyone seen bubblegum crisis?

How many jobs will be created (1)

duckpoopy (585203) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520564)

designing, maintaining and programming the robots? Surely autonomous humanoid robots will have human supervision

.. burger-flippers (1)

eples (239989) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520565)

..so this confirms you don't need the "CPU power and memory of the human brain" to flip burgers...

Robots taking all the jobs (1)

Blarneystonejeff (593753) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520566)

If the robots take all the jobs than we don't have to work. So what's the problem. With nanotechnology all of our material needs such as food, shelter, and even medical will be covered. With Peer to Peer entertainment and art will be free. What's the problem?? There will be no need for money or jobs. What are they crying about.

Great! (0)

qwertme (643445) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520573)

Then everyone can have minimum income supplied by the governement(from the taxes paid by these companies) and concentrate on more interesting stuff(studies, art, anything you want)

Robot Insurance (1)

JLyle (267134) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520578)

It's not too late to invest in some Old Glory Robot Insurance [robotcombat.com] , for when the metal ones come. And they will.

Poll box for question (1)

hrm (26016) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520583)

My question: How many people on /. think he is right (or even close - let's say he's off by 10 or 20 years)? Or is he full of it?"

Hey Michael, I remember a long time ago when Katz asked the readership if he was a gasbag or not, we had a little Pollbox thingy inside the article. How about using those thingies a bit more often for questions like these? Ought to be fun.

I Hope So (1)

Lethargica (628272) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520584)

I'm going be exhausted by then.

Food kiosks? (1)

Jaywalk (94910) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520585)

When I was a kid in the 60s these were called "automats". I thought they were cool, but they never caught on. It turned out that people would rather deal with people and automats were eventually replaced by McDonalds.

Hands down.... (1)

Trigun (685027) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520586)

Natural stupidity will always beat Artificial intelligence.

I for one, welcome our new (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520587)

robot overlo.., no scratch that, food service profesionals.

Do you think robots could understand what no mayonaise means?

If they do, I'm sold.

It's not robots I'm worried about... (1)

KamuSan (680564) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520588)

But Indians and Chinese... If almost all jobs are replaced by robots or 'offshore', who are you going to sell your stuff to? How would the economy keep running?

Sounds suspiciously like... (1)

TenDimensions (232370) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520589)

every other prediction that came before promising total upending of the world as we know it.

I think he's exapolating one instance of a *slight* change of how fast food service works and turning that into a wild, far out, prediction.

The Burger King in my home town tried "sit down" dining for a short while. You place your order with a human cashier and take a number to sit down. Then your food is brought out to you. They stopped doing this after a short while.

My bet is this won't take off for whatever reason the sit down venue didn't seem to take hold. Of course, I claim ignorance as to just why it didn't take hold - my guess is that people just didn't see the need for it.

Plus, if you look at the ROI for installing these kiosks - what could it really amount to? You basically still need the person who ordinarily would be taking the order because that person is now going to have to bring your food to you. Who else is it going to be? Not the preparers of the food - they're too busy preparing the next meal.

I vote no - I don't think this is going to catch on.

Robots take US jobs by 2050... (1)

payndz (589033) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520590)

...and then by 2070, the robots lose *their* jobs when they're outsourced to Indian robots!

I for one welcome our Humanoid Robots overlords... (1)

tyroneking (258793) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520591)

... and speaking as someone whose main job is to feed my master computers with information and business rules, I can't bloody wait...

I thought the whole point of computers was to free humans from menial tasks so we coudl spend all day on the beach, flying starships and drinking coffee.

We are, after all, nothing but consumers ...

Paradigm Shift Needed (1)

Zen Mastuh (456254) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520598)

Other posters have pointed out that millions will be unemployed. That is likely what will happen unless we move out of our current paradigm of wealth-hoarding by the owners of capital. If this pattern continues indefinitely, all of the wealth on the planet will be concentrated into the hands of the few. The rest of us--including every last slashdot user--will be subject to their whim, at least until the machines take over.

Novelist & guerrilla ontologist Robert Anton Wilson [raw.com] has suggested that employees who design themselves out of their jobs be rewarded with a substantial portion of the labor saved by their innovation. He calls this concept R.I.C.H.: Rising Income through Cybernetic Homeostasis. This won't fend off the Machine Overlord problem, but will motivate workers to exercise their creativity, something that will have many positive yet un-quantifiable side effects.

Hmm (1)

verloren (523497) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520600)

"Will Humanoid Robots Take All the Jobs by 2050?"

Hmm. I'm going to go with, erm, ooh, don't rush me, I think...


Anything else I can help with?

Cheers, Paul

Long term predictions are always rubbish (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520601)

Yes, we will eventually see a lot of the jobs that are currently performed by humans performed by robots. Yes, vision systems will increase the number of jobs they can do. Also, we'll eventually see a cure for all forms of cancer, private space travel, and practical nuclear fusion.

The thing is, these will not happen overnight. We're not going to wake up one morning and be told that all jobs are going to be replaced by robots. They'll replace them as technology become appropriate, and society wil have time to adapt and find other mundane tasks for us to do. Society is robust like that.

A touch of humanity (1)

Kirellii (688799) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520603)

The people who control the vast amounts of resources will want to be pampered by human beings who can be shown to have a lesser status and exploited in all ways imaginable through the process. In addition, those who have money will also want to occupy those who don't so that they do not have free time on their hands to foment unrest and redistribute the wealth. If you take into account the automation of crime prevention and information abuse through advancements in computers and electronics, you could possibly try to go this way in a police state. I think you can try to dance around the social and economic realities in each of the example governments but you will end up in the same place because people cannot yet be fully indoctrinated and achieve buy in to the status quo with current educational technology. Also, the genetic makeup of the human population would have to be corrected to allow electronic indoctrination to be successful due to the differences in wiring of the human brain between individuals. So the answer is yes - and definitely NO. If anyone can achieve this, it would be a culture which already keeps everyone out of the loop - but then they would notice something changing as they approach full development in their countries as defined by integration of latest technology and ideas. (Religion is considered ideas at this point.)

Had to Be Said (1)

Jonsey (593310) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520604)

I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.

It's not Karma Whoring when you can't get Karma. : )

So... (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520605)

My programming job will be outsourced to India and robots will be doing all the burger flipping jobs? Good thing I expect to be dead by 2040...

I've been reading between the lines with the recent health care benefits for seniors. The message I've been seeing is "We can't afford to pay for all you old people to survive. Why don't you just die? You're not being productive anymore anyway." The message appears to be the same for other uninsured/unemployed people; "Oh you're poor, tough luck. Why don't you just die?" I notice however that there's plenty of money to give congresscritters full lifetime coverage, though.

The system here in the US seems to be increasingly geared toward wage-slavery until death, with an ever-decreasing pool of jobs and an ever-increasing population. Is that really the kind of society you want to live in?

Paradigm shifts and business (1)

intermodal (534361) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520606)

This has been a long time coming. Man makes machines to do his work, and man runs out of work to do himself. But the problem is that in a capitalist society, it becomes a way to save money instead of a way to improve life for the people it's relieving. Thus, unless people get a shortened work week or a lightened load as a result of the automation, it's doing far more damage to society than it is good. So it's truly become another case of business versus people.

The only real comfort is that if people can't afford to buy things, the businesses still won't profit. But at that point it becomes a pure absorb-and-consume market rather than a real swirling/flowing capitalist economy...

Its very possible (2, Insightful)

mnmn (145599) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520608)

While they wont replace ALL employees of that sector, its easily possible the number of fast food robots will exceed employees in numbers. Robotics have made lots of advances and with powerful CPUs and languages to deal with them, sophisticated tasks can be handed over to them more economically than to a high school student.

Computers potentially already have more cpu and memory than a human....... can anyone remember 2 terabytes of text, graphics and audio??(our memories are very low resolution), and can you compete with a 386 in arithmetic and general logic? The deep blue bested the best of chess players and approximately that level of cpu power is already available on desktops. However many key features of the human thinking will remain missing from computers for a while, the biggest of which is learning and associating concepts. How many computers can listen to two foreigners talk and learn the language by listening alone?

Don't hold your Breath (1)

Dolly_Llama (267016) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520610)

The key in adoption is not whether it is possible for robots to do the job, but rather whether it is cheaper / better to use robots. Consider the automotive industry. They use robots on the manufacturing line because they operate in a very small 'space of operation' (ie they do a few very specific welds) and are more precise and allow a higher throughput of autos on the assembly line. The fast-food jobs however, require very little precision or even training. The capabilities of robots will have to improve hugely AND the cose of these robots will have to be SO low as to make economic sense to replace a minimum wage worker. Sure it may happen, but I think my job at the In-n-Out is safe for the time being.

Offshore (1)

TiMike (575912) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520611)

yeah, and offshore workers will take the other half.

Basic Economics (2, Informative)

OzPhIsH (560038) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520613)

Any economist will tell you that this guy has no clue what he's talking about. Maybe robots will be around and maybe not. The fact is that there is an infinate amount of work to be done, not some limited supply that is portioned out. This is basic, basic, economics you'll discover in any book on the subject.

One way to not end up living in a shack (1)

tjensor (571163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520619)

Buy shares in the Robot companies! Do it now!

Semi on topic but... (1)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520620)

...computers with the CPU power and memory of the human brain by 2040...

A few weeks ago I was having a dream (which like all of mine was vivid, colourful and memorable) and suddenly became aware that I was dreaming. Now usually when this happens you wake up instantly, but I didn't.

I looked at my surroundings, a lush green field of grass, and remember thinking in my dream that it was amazing how all of this was being 'rendered' from nothing in my brain. I knelt down on the grass and could see all of the individual blades, dandelions and daisies etc. Usually you remember settings, people and objects in dream but no as accurately or detailed. When I woke up, my first thought was that the human brain would make a sweet graphics renderer! If computers could compete with brain power or brains even became computers then it would open up wonderful possibilities for graphics, the area that most people would associate with this level of computing anyway.

Just my £2/100

In an economy... (1)

mgcsinc (681597) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520622)

Regardless of the validity of his immediate predictions, I feel this dependence is bound to come at some point, and I have an observation to make about it: in an economy which would be based on robots performing so many tasks, I just don't think you can base economic statements on unemployment like we are used to. There's nothing to say that if technological resources dwarf human ones, human unemployment is a significant issue in the scheme of the proper use of resources. I think the biggest problem ends up being allocation of wealth produced by a non-human workforce, and I can't help but call thoughts of Marxism and the like to mind...

Less drama maybe? (2, Insightful)

BigGerman (541312) | more than 11 years ago | (#6520623)

Yes there will be more and more self-order-and-pay kiosks.
I imagine kitchen automation at the restaurant is possible (steak cooking robot).
But general-purpose robots? I don't think so.
Roomba the vacuum cleaner is out already. Robotic lawn movers will be next. Robotic gas-pumps, construction site robots, etc are definetely to come.
But a general purpose walking and talking robot will never be justifyable to build and market.
I think we will end up with millions and millions of highly specialized robots networked together and dynamically provisioned and allocated by AI control systems.
Yes, lots of people will have to retrain. No, it will not result in 50% unemployment. And someone has to program all those things so /. crowd will be all right ;-)

hm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6520627)

Then man made the machine in his own likenes... Thus did man become the architect of his own demise. But, for a time, it was good.
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