Employment: Robot or Human

As technology advances, more and more jobs would and are being filled in by robots – from machines that administers sedatives to bellhop robots that delivers items to hotel rooms to a future of self-driving vehicles.

So, obviously what comes to mind is the displacement of humans. The increase of unemployment. As well as the question of emotional intelligence in robots and the skills development of workers. Can man keep up with change? Or can robots really handle delicate jobs?

A bellhop robot at a hotel in California

A bellhop robot at a hotel in California. (photo NYT)

While technology suggests that robots would only aid man in his work, how come there are those losing their jobs? Lack of skills? Most probably. Then why not just train your people?

As a business leader, you would want your company to spend less and save more. But don’t you have the heart for those who would be removed from their jobs? Yes, business is not charity, but good business has a good heart. That’s social responsibility.

Besides, there are many ways to keep your people employed if you really want to..

But let’s talk about what Google co-founder Larry Page suggested – have a 4-day workweek to help workers displaced by technology look for jobs.

The author says this “solution” would only go circles. Why? Because it’s simply not about looking for a new job since companies would be turning in to robot staffing.

This means, even if they look for jobs, they would not get hired because companies got their robot. Well, except if they still don’t have one then better skilled job-seekers could get hired, then again that company must also be gearing towards robot employment – unless these workers search in another industry which would make them totally displaced. So, in any case, it’s just a temporary position.

Reducing the number of working hours or days should then mean..

  • Workers would not be terminated but scheduled for 6-hour work days.
  • Scheduling is not really part-time because the 2 hours taken off would be used for training the employee in supplemental tasks, say 3 months.
  • Those who are not efficient with their training would have their employment status downgraded to part-time which is 4 hours for a certain period, say 6 months. Only after this period would they be released by the company – if they are diligent otherwise earlier. Employees should then take note that it is during these 6 months that they should be looking for jobs or other sources of income.

    A robotic system delivering sedatives to a patient

    A robotic system delivering sedatives to a patient. (NYT)

  • Those who pass the training would regain their full-time status until their efficiency is proven insufficient, therefore, they should go back to that 6-hour work day – that is one more time if the employee’s incompetence is not related to “newer” technology. Newer means, the company has only been using this technology for less than 6 months. If the procedure is said to be “old” and they still make crucial mistakes despite the training then their employment status could be downgraded.

As for robot-staffing, while humans are still capable of doing their jobs at a high level, no matter how simple – don’t take in robots. If you would, do the scheduling first. After all, robots don’t have bills to pay or families to feed.

What’s your take?