Will robots take our jobs? Amazon contest underway to find out


Amazon has launched a contest to see who can create machines capable of providing adequate labor in what are usually human-controlled fulfillment centers. So will robots take our jobs? You bet your ass they will!

Most of us like to believe we’re special, and assume robots can’t possibly accomplish the same complicated set of tasks we can because, well, we’re unique. From customer service to specialized warehouse jobs that require manual dexterity, we often believe that in the least, there will always be some things we can do that they can’t. Of course, the corporate enthusiasm for job-killing automation is hard to ignore.

will robots take our jobs

Kiva System’s Mobile-robotic Fulfillment Solution in action at Gilt Group’s Distribution Center in Shepherdsville, KY (PHOTO CREDIT: Dawghause Photography)

We’re not special

Or perhaps we’re so damned special that we will eventually (and inevitably) propel robotics forward to make machines seem like gods.

For the time being, Amazon is focusing on refining certain computer abilities that until now remained seriously inadequate. Specifically, Amazon’s competition is focused on enhancing computer-vision and machine learning algorithms to help robots locate, retrieve, and package products. If a product is broken during the competition, the robot incurs a penalty for its team. The winner will be given $25,000.

The first parts of the process are already in play at many Amazon warehouses. The company’s growing team of automated Kiva robots perform synchronized work to retrieve products, and watching them is almost hypnotic. So far, none has successfully packaged merchandise. If you haven’t seen them in action, check out this video:

Will robots take our jobs? Analysts say yes.

At least 30 teams will compete in the competition, currently scheduled to take place in Seattle’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation (or ICRA 2015). Recently, there has been a massive surge in automated systems worldwide, raising the question: will robots take our jobs? Although economists and professionals have responded with mixed opinions, some analysts acknowledge the likelihood that automation could kill up to 47% of American jobs in the coming decades.

Still, they caution that the future is uncertain.

Some futurists believe other jobs will replace those that are lost, as has happened many times throughout industrial history. Other analysts caution that there simply isn’t enough data available to form a meaningful consensus, one way or another.

Of course that won’t stop us from speculating. What do you think? Will robots take our jobs? Yea or nay?

About Author

Jeff is a self-proclaimed pragmatic futurist; that is, he has high hopes for absurd life-altering technologies which sound too good to be true, and probably are. Although he writes on a variety of subjects, his real passion is for technological innovation and the people who make it happen. By day, he enjoys fuzzy bunnies, kittens, puppies, roller coasters and a sardonic written word or two. By night, he's busy running memyselfandrobot.com, replaying a random Final Fantasy game, or pretending to be Batman. He currently resides in Upstate NY.

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