Humanity is not headed into an I, Robot universe yet, but mankind has already seen the obsolescence of several of its previous vocations with the inception of some of its own inventions. The advent of more sophisticated technology is about to lead to yet another job crush. Travel agents, telegraph operators and check writers of the past can get ready to welcome the newest members of the unemployed ranks to their woebegone cluster on the metaphorical island of misfit careers.
Pharmacists will be replaced by robots. The next trip you take to the pharmacy may not be too different from your last, but the end of the pharmacist vocation is not too far off. Humans make errors; it is a simple fact, and much of a pharmacist’s job involves tedious, monotonous counting. Mistakes can be expensive to a pharmacy when a customer has received a prescription with too much, or too little medication. A study focused on the accuracy of dispensation in 50 pharmacies located in 6 different cities around the United States was published in 2003. A total of 4,481 prescriptions were filled, and 77 of the prescriptions had errors; of the 77 errors, 5 or 6.5 percent were found to be “clinically important.” The authors determined inaccuracy in the dispensation of prescriptions to be a problem on a “national level.”
A similar study conducted in the UK concluded that there are 4 errors and 22 near misses for every 10,000 dispensed prescriptions. When a life saving medication is dispensed just short of the right number to a person going on a trip, simple human error becomes a life-endangering problem. ScriptPro, a manufacturer of robotic prescription dispensing systems, claims that their machines are capable of dispensing up to 150 prescriptions in one hour with an accuracy rate of 99.7 percent. A future of prescription dispensing robots may not be free of errors, but the statistics show that they could be far less frequent.
Driving Miss Daisy may be a thing of the past as well, now that self-driving cars are slowly beginning to proliferate. While it may be true that driving is a privilege, and not a right; rush hour traffic always feels like the total raging opposite. Professional drivers will likely see the openings in their field begin to dwindle over the next decade as autonomous driving technology becomes more commonplace. Some employees of Google already have the luxury of being escorted to work in a self-driving car.
Some of the large manufacturers that are already working on developing the technology are, Audi, BMW (Bavarian Motor Works), Volvo, and Nissan. Volvo is aiming at 2020 for the release of a commercially available version of their fully autonomous car, while a more primitive version of the technology is currently available in their 2013 S60.
The idea that robots could replace astronauts is a heart-breaking notion to any child who dreams of going into space, but the fact remains that trips into space can be taxing on the human body. The life threatening risks that accompany even a single space-walk are numerous, and long stints away from the Earth can have a profoundly negative affect on human physiology. The lethal duration in space varies from person to person based on gender and stature, but a matter of months in space can mean a decrease in bone density, heart size, muscle loss, and increased incidents of cancer due to radiation exposure. A human astronaut needs drugs to function on a reasonably comfortable level, whereas the robot does not have circadian rhythms or an equilibrium to be concerned with. NASA launched Robonaut 2 into space in 2011, where it has remained on the ISS (International Space Station).
Taking a night out can be expensive for parents. After making sure that there’s an accessible, child-friendly meal in the fridge, there’s the price of dining out in addition to the added expenses of gas, and other activities; and of course, hiring the neighbor kid from down the street. A job that was once left to dogs, family members and neighbors, is now going to the machines. Nanny and babysitting robots are now on the market. These sophisticated automatons are capable of recognizing faces, making conversation, sending text messages and keeping track of children. Shenyang Siasun Robot & Automation Co. Ltd introduced the Family Nanny Robot in 2010.
The tollbooth attendant has been on its way out and suffering for years. EZ Pass and automated counting machines have replaced many jobs already; and they do not mind the hours of confinement. California cut hundreds of toll-collector jobs in 2012, and toll collectors in New Jersey have been fighting against losing their jobs in waves since last year.
“Apple Genius,” hacker, and social media strategists are all titles that did not exist one century ago; as the old saying goes, “when one door closes, another opens.” These new technologies may alter paradigms and replace jobs that were once taken by humans, but the changes will likely bring another wave of brand new jobs for humans. The postal service workers, telephone operators, and photo technicians of yesterday could be replaced by the 3D printer operators, robot maintenance specialists, and food chemists of tomorrow.
By Faye Barton