Look out, there’s a ro­bot just wait­ing to take over your job

They are cheaper, don’t get tired, won’t strike, and they might be bet­ter than you. Yan Yiqi re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

In a restau­rant newly opened in­Chengdu, cap­i­tal city of Sichuan prov­ince, four robots are busy wait­ing ta­bles. The robots, 1.3 me­ters tall and ca­pa­ble of lifting up to 3 kilo­grams, can de­liver dishes, col­lect empty plates and com­mu­ni­cate with cus­tomers in sim­ple sen­tences.

Restau­rant owner Zong Ning said that one such ro­bot could serve 10 ta­bles, re­plac­ing at least two wait­ers.

“The robots are 100 per­cent obe­di­ent and re­quire charg­ing only once a day. They are more ef­fi­cient than wait­ers and wait­resses,” said Zong.

Each of the robots costs 70,000 yuan ($11,300). Zong said that it would take just one year to re­cover the money he has spent buy­ing the robots com­pared with the money he is sav­ing on hu­man la­bor costs.

While con­sumers are still im­pressed by ro­bot wait­ers em­ployed by restau­rants, it is easy to imag­ine that they will ap­pear more and more in our daily lives. Some might even take over our jobs.

In­Oc­to­ber, Ox­fordUniver­sity pub­lished a study of the ap­pli­ca­tion of ro­bot­ics in the US la­bor force. It found that it is pos­si­ble that as much as 47 per­cent of the la­bor force could be re­placed with robots over the next two decades.

In China, the ro­botic revo­lu­tion is mov­ing for­ward in gi­ant steps. In or­der to off­set ris­ing la­bor costs and a short­age of skilled work­ers, ma­jor prob­lems plagu­ing China, robots are ap­plied for many dif­fer­ent uses.

Statis­tics show that in­dus­trial robots are be­ing used in 25 sec­tors in China, in­clud­ing food, chem­i­cals, elec­tron­ics and au­to­mo­biles.

Ac­cord­ing to the China Ro­bot In­dus­try Al­liance, China has al­ready over­taken Ja­pan as the world’s largest con­sumer of robots, buy­ing more than one-fifth of the world’s ro­bot out­put.

Last year, 36,860 in­dus­trial robots were sold in the Chi­nese mar­ket, a growth of 36 per­cent year-on-year.

Song Xiao­gang, pres­i­dent of the CRIA, said that the num­ber of robots sold in China would reach 50,000 this year.

“From now on, the ro­bot in­dus­try will main­tain an an­nual growth rate of 40 per­cent for a long pe­riod of time,” he said.

The rapid growth has en­cour­aged Chi­nese com­pa­nies to share a slice of the­mar­ket.

By the end ofOc­to­ber, China had more than 430 com­pa­nies man­u­fac­tur­ing robots. An av­er­age of two new­com­pa­nies joins the sec­tor ev­ery week.

Song said that apart from ro­botic work­ers in man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tries, which ac­count for most ro­bot ap­pli­ca­tion in China, he sees a grow­ing de­mand for self-driv­ing cars, de­liv­ery drones and even ro­bot jour­nal­ists by 2030.

“Many peo­ple find the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence in movies like In­ter­stel­lar amaz­ing. It is not im­pos­si­ble that they will ex­ist in the fu­ture. By then, robots will take over many hu­man jobs,” said Song.

Since the no­tion of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence be­came a hot topic around the world, ex­perts started to list the jobs that are most likely to be re­placed by robots.

It is no sur­prise to find that highly repet­i­tive jobs are on the list, but some are beyond imag­i­na­tion to most of us – at the mo­ment.

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