I can’t wait for those ro­bots

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - David Byers

WHEN A for­eign con­struc­tion worker called Sam ar­rives in Bri­tain in around 18 months, some of his fel­low builders may not be happy. Sam won’t wolf-whis­tle at pass­ing women. Nei­ther will he take long lunch-breaks or de­mand con­stant re­fills of tea.

But it isn’t Sam’s metic­u­lous po­lite­ness — or his over­seas na­tion­al­ity — that will bother his col­leagues. It’s the fact that he’s a ro­bot. And he will have stolen their jobs.

Sam’s full name is Semi-Au­to­mated Ma­son. He comes from New York and he is ca­pa­ble of lay­ing up to 3,000 bricks ev­ery day com­pared with the hu­man av­er­age of 500. A robotic ex­pert at JLL, the property con­sul­tancy, told me re­cently that robo-brick­ies like Sam (or the ap­pro­pri­ate­ly­named Aus­tralian ver­sion, Hadrian) will soon be com­mon­place on Bri­tish build­ing sites.

Sam is a lit­tle late to the party. We’ve al­ready seen ro­bot sur­geons (they car­ried out their first full op­er­a­tion in Mon­treal in 2010), ro­bot milk­ing farm­ers (there are hun­dreds in the UK al­ready), and even a mini-Ter­mi­na­tor (made in Is­rael, it climbs stairs, goes round cor­ners and fires a pis­tol).

A re­port re­leased this month by Price­Wa­ter­house­Coop­ers pre­dicted four out of 10 Amer­i­can jobs would be re­placed by au­to­ma­tion by the early 2030s.

This gives the Bri­tish labour force much to think about, of course. But from my own self­ish point of view, I’d like to wel­come the forth­com­ing ro­bot in­va­sion with open arms.

It was Guide to the Jewish man, writ­ten anony­mously for the JC in 2012, which as­serted de­spair­ingly: “The male Jew is not pre­dis­posed, at a cel­lu­lar level, to­wards man­ual labour.”

I can re­veal that my skills in this re­gard are even more lam­en­ta­ble than most Jewish men. So bad, in fact, that I con­fess I once knocked my own grand­mother out when chang­ing a light bulb by drop­ping a glass light-fit­ting on her head (noth­ing that a packet of frozen peas didn’t sort out).

This kind of tech­ni­cal de­fi­ciency se­ri­ously af­fected my love-life as a young man, re­in­forc­ing a sort-of David Sch­wim­mer-like sta­tus within my friend­ship group as a charm­ing if un­sexy nerd. For any­one frus­trated, like me, by their do­mes­tic hap­less­ness, ro­bots that build stuff will be our saviour — and save us a for­tune in handy­man bills.

Putting Sam aside, though, the ro­bot set to rev­o­lu­tionise our lives the most is the driver­less car, which is pre­dicted to be a max­i­mum of 10 years away. This prospect ter­ri­fies many who fear the tech­nol­ogy could be hacked, leav­ing them hurtling along a free­way a bit like Keanu Reeves in Speed.

On the other hand, I’d ar­gue that al­low­ing our lim­ited hu­man brains to take con­trol of cars for the first time, back in 1886, was one of mankind’s sil­li­est tech­no­log­i­cal de­ci­sions, and it’s high time we re­versed it. “Over a mil­lion peo­ple are killed in car ac­ci­dents ev­ery year around the world, mostly due to hu­man er­ror, and in a fully au­ton­o­mous world all of those (and many more in­juries) will also go away,” Bene­dict Evans, Sil­i­con Val­ley tech­nol­ogy writer, blogs. More than a mil­lion deaths a year! That means ced­ing con­trol of cars could have the same an­nual global im­pact as elim­i­nat­ing all fa­tal­i­ties from lung cancer.

Plus, the ben­e­fits to our house­hold fi­nances will be enor­mous. No more will I need to worry about a close fam­ily mem­ber in­flict­ing prangs to my drive­way (twice), my par­ents’ drive­way (twice) or a par­tic­u­larly fast-mov­ing Finch­ley oak tree (twice).

For some­one like me, un­suited to the prac­ti­cal world, I’m all for the ro­bot revo­lu­tion. That is, if they leave me with a job to go to.

I once knocked my grandma out chang­ing a light bulb

David Byers is as­sis­tant edi­tor (property and per­sonal fi­nance) at The Times

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.