Do you like watching science fiction movies? If so, you may have watched those movies where Robots spread everywhere. Sometimes as friends and some other times as enemies who seek to rule the earth.
Back to real life … For thousands of years, humans shared the life on this planet with other species. That includes animals, birds, fishes and others. We all live, move and eat from the available resources on our earth. Then, with the different technology advances, man has started to make new partners and bring them on-board. He called them Robots. These robots may move, talk, act, and even have names. Moreover, robots have jobs as we do and some of them live in our homes as our new pets.
Very long ago, man depended on his own muscles for living. He used his legs to move from a place to another and his hands to lift the rocks. Then, man found that animals like horses and bulls are stronger. So, he depended on them for doing the heavy physical efforts. Using them, he could travel longer distances and transfer heavier goods from a place to another. During previous centuries after the industrial revolutions, man started to depend on machines as well for the physical power. At the same time, he kept depending on his own brain for the mental activities.
Then, man invented computers and enhanced their capabilities. These machines proved the ability to solve complicated calculations much faster than human brain. Hence, man delegated part of his mental activities to computers and depended on them for doing all the math.
With the technology advances, man take one more step forward. Man started to depend on machines not only for calculations but for taking actions as well. That happened when man invented the Artificial Intelligence, which allowed machines to receive the inputs, analyze the situations and then act accordingly. Man called these machines “Robots.
What is a “Robot”?
Unlike some of us think and see in movies, robots are not only those machines that looks like humans. Generally, a robot is simply a machine that is designed for performing specific tasks. Accordingly,
the scope and look of robots varies to a wide extend. Some of them look like humans with head, arms and legs while others are not at all. Some maybe huge while others may be as small as a human finger.
Another fact that worth mentioning is that not all robots are fully automated. Yes, some of them are automated and controlled by an embedded computer. However, others are controlled remotely by human operators.
What robots do
Robots are working in several different fields. Below are only examples:
If you watch movies where there are armies of robots, it is time to know that this is not pure science fiction anymore. Modern armies tries to depend on machines so that they reduce causalities in human soldiers. A common example of military robots is the Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV) currently used in several conflicts worldwide as appears in the news. Each year, more countries start adding UAVs to their armies. Predictions show that within 10 years, almost all countries will have armed UAVs. Additionally, there are unmanned ground units that currently serve in military forces. Military robots, in general, either are used for the direct fight with enemies (there is a debate about using killer robots) or doing supporting tasks such as doing surveillance duties, inspect suspicious objects or rescue wounded soldiers in battlefields.
Read our full article about Drone Applications here.
In 2011, there was about 1.2 million industrial robots around the world. They server in the factories to automate and speed the production process and accordingly, lowering costs. Industrial robots do several tasks such as welding, painting, assembly and even the quality control and inspection for the output products.
You may follow commercials for the newly appearing cars that drive and park on their own. These cars have sensors to collect
inputs about surroundings. Then an embedded computer analyzes the inputs, takes decisions and moves the car without man interaction. This means that in the so near future, we will get inside a robot that will transport us to our destinations.
Today, robots assist in surgeries where human surgeons use a computer console to move instruments attached to robot arms. Due to the technology advances, human doctors are able to perform remote surgery without physically being in the operating room. Generally, Robot-assisted surgery provides higher precision, smaller incisions and less blood loss than traditional surgeries.
Nowadays, it is probable that you step into a restaurant to get welcomed by robot waiters that will deliver your orders to your table.
Robots are used to perform activities in hazardous and dangerous environments instead of humans. For example, robots climb the walls of tall buildings and bridges to do required inspection, they navigate in the space to collect required information, they can dive under water much deeper than humans to perform scientific tasks, they can work in very high & very low temperatures to perform different activities, and they are used to inspect and deal with explosives or polluted objects.
Studies shows that at 2007, there was about 6.5 million robots worldwide. After 4 years, in 2011, the number has tripled to reach about 18.2 millions, which is about the population of Austria & Hungry summed together. The numbers show that robots increase with a much higher rate than people do. Predictions shows that with this rate, robots will increase and exceed people population before the end of this century. This means that in the near future, this planet will have billions of robots moving on earth around humans.
For the industrial robots, there are statistics to measure the “Robot Density” which is the number of robots per 10,000 persons employed in manufacturing. Statistics shows that South Korea comes first with a robot density reaching 347. Japan, Germany, Italy then Sweden comes next.
On the other hand, Japan, the most automated country in world, still occupies first place as having the highest number of industrial robots in operation. China is strongly competing by recording the highest growth in the number of robots added yearly to the industry. In 2013, one in five robots sold globally was purchased in China.
Robot & Employment
A common question is: Will robots increase the un-employment rates? There are two answers for that.
Some answer it with “Yes”. Robots work anytime, work for any number of hours, don’t care about promotion, don’t ask for annual raise and don’t tell gossips or spread negative energy among employees. In addition, they achieve higher productivity rates. In brief, for business owners, Robots are idea employees. Accordingly, they tend to hire them instead of humans, which causes an increase in un-employment rates.
However, others claim that on the contrary, robots will participate in creating more jobs. According to IFR (international Federation of Robotics), one million industrial robots is creating about three million jobs for humans. They explain: by adopting robots in manufacturing process, the production costs decrease significantly, which allows further business expansion and consequently, opening new jobs. In parallel, a need arises to hire humans for supervising the process and do the programming of the working robots, which means new jobs for humans as well.
According to the CEO of an American steel company, in 1998, employees were paid $6/hour with no benefits and they typically produced 300 hand bends in an hour. “It was a boring job and an unsafe job, with a low level of quality, now our employees are paid $25 to $30/hour including bonuses, overtime and great benefits. Each employee oversees four robots that produce 20,000 CNC bends in an hour and the quality has sky rocketed, Last year was our most successful one as a business, exporting to more than 30 countries. We’ve increased our workforce by more than a quarter. Thanks to the robots, jobs are both interesting and safe”.
Last century witnessed the expansion of personal computers. In the beginning, computers were very huge to the extent of a big room inside a university or organization. Then, computers became much cheaper and much smaller so that you put them on your personal desk. Accordingly, millions of computers are sold to cover almost every home in most world countries.
A close scenarios are expected to robots. With the technology advances, robot prices are reduced while their capabilities are continuously improved. Shortly, people will have their personal computers, personal smartphones and their personal robots as well.
In near future, it is expected to witness the spread of personal robot. The robot will move around the house, talk with people and answer them about the weather, news, sport scores, and their scheduled meetings. In addition, it will take photographs, play music and control home devices as well. This means controlling house lights, room temperature and coffee machines.
Hence, the current competition between the brands of our personal mobiles maybe transferred soon to a tough competition between personal robot brands.
Humans, Robots & Future
Yesterday, software experts were developing applications for personal computers. Today, trend is changing towards mobile applications. Tomorrow, it is predicted to have the need for operating systems & applications to robots. To catch up, skilled & smart technology geeks will be needed to fit with future trends.
From the economic perspective, automation keeps invading production lines. The result is output products with competitive prices that can penetrate markets. However, the increase in automation opens the door for the opposite direction production, which is hand-made. Despite lower prices of automated mass production, a trend is appearing towards the human touch of hand-made products even with relatively higher prices.
Unique human skill
In General, robots cannot cancel the human touch, world will always need humans. We can say that along history, man has delegated physical power to animals & machines, delegated logical thinking to computers and delegated taking actions to robots. However, the unique skill that is exclusively owned humans is Creativity.
Creativity allows humans to invent & innovate. Although machines have a super performance, only humans have the capabilities to enhance & improve their performance.
Using creativity, humans generate art. Only human make new novels, movies, advertisements, cartoon characters, musical symphonies…etc.
This means that we, humans, have the responsibility to focus direct our efforts towards the highest level of human skills. It is our responsibility to think, create, invent & innovate for making this planet a better place and without losing our human touch.
A writer & GIS consultant … Studied the Management of Technology … dreaming of a better world.