The changing workforce: Don’t expect robots to take everyone’s job

By Noah Smith Bloomberg Opinion

Studies foresee big numbers of jobs becoming automated. But what exactly that means and how it might play out are far from clear. An Amazon warehouse in New Jersey last year. In some cases, machines are doing jobs that humans once did, but humans are minding the machines.

How many jobs are vulnerable to automation? Plenty of people ask that question, and plenty of people try to give numerical answers.

A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said that about 46 percent of jobs have a better-than-even chance of being automated. A 2016 study by Citigroup and the University of Oxford reported that 57 percent of jobs were at high risk of automation, although a 2013 paper by two of the same researchers predicted 47 percent. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report comes up with somewhat lower numbers, though it varies by country. In 2016, the World Economic Forum report came up with a number just less than 40 percent for the U.S. There are many other examples.

These are large numbers. Even more troubling, they’re all fairly similar — each of the studies seems to come to the conclusion that roughly half of all jobs are very vulnerable to automation. But don’t panic — nobody really knows how many jobs will be replaced by robots, or even what it means to be replaced.

What does it mean for a job to be lost to automation? Does it mean that a worker is rendered entirely obsolete as a worker and is forced to go on the welfare rolls? Or does it mean that she loses her current job, with her current company? If a person gets a new job at a different company in the same industry for more pay, does it still count as a job loss? What about for 85 percent as much pay?

The studies are not clear about this. Usually, their basic methodology is to show some technology experts a description of a job — or the tasks that, on paper, a job is said to require — and then ask the experts whether they think technology will soon be able to do those tasks. But even assuming that the experts are correct — that there isn’t another AI winter or broad technological stagnation — nobody really knows what happens to a job whose tasks can be automated.

In their book, “Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence,” economists and AI specialists Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb predict that few jobs will be entirely replaced by AI in the near future but that many individual tasks will be automated. What happens to an employee who now has a machine to do half of her work for her, but who is still needed to do the other half? She might get a pay cut, but she also might get a raise, since she can now get more work done per hour than before. Her job description and job title might change, but if she’s earning more, she’s unlikely to mind.

In other words, the so-called risk posed by automation isn’t all downside — it has considerable upside as well.

Even more importantly, studies like the ones cited above can’t say much about what automation does to the job market as a whole. It’s almost certain that as some jobs get automated, others will be created to take their place. Just consider all the new jobs that didn’t exist a few years or decades ago — social-media manager, data scientist or podcast producer. Additionally, those job categories that don’t end up getting fully automated might expand if the supply of workers available to do them increased — the nation might have fewer cashiers but more landscapers.

The studies also don’t account for income effects. Automation makes it cheaper to run a business, which can make the number of businesses proliferate. That means that even if each business employs fewer people for a particular job, the number of people doing that job can increase. A famous case of this is how ATMs were predicted to reduce the number of bank tellers. In fact, the number of tellers per branch did fall substantially, but banks opened a lot more branches, in part because ATMs made it cheaper to do so. As a result, the number of bank tellers actually increased steadily between 1980 and 2010 (though it has fallen somewhat since then, thanks in part to industry consolidation). Cashiers are another example — despite the advent of self-checkout machines, the number of humans working in the area has remained essentially constant.

More fundamentally, automation of one sort or another has been happening for centuries — machine tools, steam shovels, word processors, street sweepers and plenty of other machines are just forms of automation. If you did a study like the ones listed above in 1900, you would have found that almost any job at the time had some tasks that machines would someday perform. And yet, most people still have a job.

To really know how automation will affect employment levels, wages and inequality, you need a macroeconomic model, and you need lots of assumptions about how technology affects companies’ costs, workers’ productivity and consumers’ preferences. All of those things introduce huge amounts of uncertainty. Meanwhile, studies like the ones listed above are helpful and informative, and many of them contain a lot of interesting data about the relationship between technology and economy — but they don’t tell you whether your livelihood is really at risk.

 

Join us at MinnPack 2018 in booth 915

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Air Automation introduces the new HCR-5 Collaborative Robot! 

Introducing the new HCR-5 Collaborative Robot… Easy ∙ Flexible ∙ Safe

Hanwha Techwin’s Collaborative Robot HCR-5 is a powerful assistant for your business. The HCR-5 system successfully automates a wide range of industrial applications with its Easy Programming, Flexible Installation, and Safety Functions.

Contact us to set up a lunch with a robot or application evaluation

Don’t miss Air Automation at the Omaha Products Show

Nebraska’s Showcase of the Latest and Best

This year Air Automation will have a booth at the Omaha Products Show! Come and see the latest: Robots, Vision Systems, Assembly Tools, PLC’S, Air Automation Custom Products & More!

Thursday October 12th 9:00am – 3:30pm
7015 Spring Street
Omaha, NE 68106
Booths: 400 & 401

AAE is recognized as a Gold Level Aimco partner!

Mr. Doug Hall, president of Aimco recently came to visit our office headquarters and presented AAE with a certificate of achievement for performing at their highest customer service & sales level.

 

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Epson Robots to Demonstrate Innovative and Highly Efficient Robotics Solutions for the Factory Automation Industry at ATX East

MEDIA ALERT: NEW YORK, NY – June 13, 2017 

Who

Epson Robots will be showcasing unique, innovative, high precision robotics solutions designed for maximum efficiency and productivity for a wide variety of applications in factory automation at the Automation Technology show, ATX East.

What

The showcase will feature the new and revolutionary Flexion™ N2 6-Axis robot as well as an assembly demo of an Epson Point of Sale printer built with a high precision SCARA robot and a compact 6-Axis robot.

Showcase

The showcase includes Epson’s newest Flexion N2 6-Axis space-saving robot, featuring the world’s first compact folding arm design that meets the increasingly high demands for efficient movement and precise placement required in advanced manufacturing. It’s ideal for use in production and quality assurance in the automotive, electronics, medical and laboratory equipment industries, which require compact solutions for applications that need smaller robots and workcells. With the ability to operate in a tight space, the Flexion N2, which reduces the required workspace area by up to 40% versus standard 6-Axis robots, can be utilized in production lines that traditional 6-Axis robots cannot.*1 These ultra compact robots with a reach of 450 mm are able to easily reach into confined and restricted work spaces from many angles with smooth motion, allowing for maximum efficiency.

Also on display will be an assembly of the Epson OmniLink® TM-T88V Point of Sale intelligent printer built with a G6-Series SCARA robot and a C4 6-Axis robot.

Epson G6 SCARA robots are perfect for applications that require high speed and/or high precision in industries such as automotive, medical, semiconductor, food, pharmaceutical, hard drive, consumer, and many others. The new Max-E envelope design delivers maximum motion range, allowing Epson G-series robots to do jobs that normally require much larger arms. The smaller footprint translates to less factory space requirements and lower overall factory costs, helping manufacturers to stay competitive.

The compact Epson C4 6-Axis robots deliver exceptional speed, flexibility and repeatability, making them ideal for lab automation, medical, consumer, food, automotive, electronics, PC peripheral, semiconductor, plastics, appliance and aerospace industries. They can be used for a wide variety of applications ranging from blood sample handling to DNA testing or from instrument panel assembly to medical instrument kitting. Epson C4 robots include a unique compact wrist pitch as well as a slim body elbow design. They are well suited for big jobs in tiny spaces allowing payloads of up to 4Kg while maintaining fast speeds and cycle times, resulting in maximum productivity.

When

ATX East takes place from June 13-15.

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Where

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY. Epson booth 2405

About Epson Robots

Epson Robots is a global leader in PC controlled precision factory automation, with an installed base of well over 55,000 robots worldwide and a product line of hundreds of models of easy to use SCARA, Cartesian and 6-Axis robots based on a common PC based platform. Building on a 35+ year heritage, Epson Robots today delivers robots for precision assembly and material handling applications in the aerospace, appliance, automotive, biotechnology, consumer product, electronics, food processing, medical device, pharmaceutical, plastics, semiconductor, and telecommunication industries. For more information, visit www.epsonrobots.com

About Epson

Epson is a global technology leader dedicated to connecting people, things and information with its original efficient, compact and precision technologies. With a lineup that ranges from inkjet printers and digital printing systems to 3LCD projectors, smart glasses, sensing systems and industrial robots, the company is focused on driving innovations and exceeding customer expectations in inkjet, visual communications, wearables and robotics.

Led by the Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation, the Epson Group comprises more than 73,000 employees in 91 companies around the world, and is proud of its contributions to the communities in which it operates and its ongoing efforts to reduce environmental impacts.

We Offer Dyna-Lift® Ergonomic Lifting Technology

Ergonomic, height-adjustable workbenches are quickly becoming the standard in industry. And as more people demand height-adjustability, Dyna-Lift ® is the standard for delivering it.

In addition to work tables, other common applications include hospital beds, assembly line fixtures, rehabilitation tables. Less conventional applications have included casket lifts, massage table lifts and lectern/podium lifts.

We have developed Dyna-Lift ® applications for many light and heavy industrial and medical applications, including a successful product to help Boeing make the production of airplane wings height-adjustable for workers.

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pneumatics

Real World Examples: Pneumatics

Pneumatic systems can be divided into two general categories: systems that are powered by a rotating rotor and systems that are powered by a reciprocating piston. Devices powered by a rotating rotor contain a housing compartment, vanes, and a central spindle. Air enters the housing and applies pressure to the vanes, which causes the spindle to rotate. Then, the mechanism that is attached to the spindle begins to move. Essentially, pneumatic systems work by compressing air to a higher pressure. The high pressure then forces a spindle or piston to move, which powers a tool or motor.

They are most commonly found in buses, trucks and other large vehicles. They use a type of friction brake that allows compressed air to press on a piston, which then applies the pressure to the brake pad which stops the vehicle.

Air Brakes

Air brakes on buses and trucks are formally known as compressed air brake systems. These systems use a type of friction brake in which compressed air presses on a piston and then applies the pressure to the brake pad that stops the vehicle.

Air Nail Gun

In an air nail gun, air pressure flows into the gun from a compressor which the air pressure is then stored in a “chamber” until the plunger which is located at the muzzle is depressed and the trigger is pulled.  When the plunger is depressed, the air pressure is then allowed to flow through the chamber, above a piston that is attached to a blade. Located above the piston is under the plunger. The compressed air then forces the plunger up and allows access to the top of the piston.

Bicycle/Ball Pump

Air is compressed and forced into the ball or bicycle inner tube as the handle is pumped on top of the cylinder. Pneumatic pumps have offered a “lower total cost of ownership” compared to traditional pumps.

Jackhammer

This device is fed with compressed air as a source of power and uses pumps to deliver air to drill through hoses. Although this is commonly known as a drill, this machine is actually more like an automatic hammer in it’s method of working and because of that, it is known as the air-hammer or jackhammer.

Orbital Sanders

This is a popular tool with body shops. The tool is comprised of a handle that fits into the palm of the hand, and a block that holds sheets of sandpaper. It spins the sandpaper in random orbits, hence the name orbital sander, which prevents the tool from leaving noticeable swirls or hot spots. This tool is very useful for someone who needs to finish an uneven surface without spending a lot of time sanding by hand. An orbital sander can generate more than 10,000 rotations per minute.

Robotic Technology Creates Cost-Effective Method to Study Missouri Crops

COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, MARCH 13, 2017

A two-pronged robotic system pioneered by University of Missouri researchers is changing the way scientists study crops and plant phenotyping.

Gui DeSouza, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and his Vision-Guided and Intelligent Robotics (ViGIR) Laboratory have partnered with researchers from the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources to study the effects of climate change on crops in Missouri. The effort is part of a larger study, funded by the National Science Foundation, to understand the overall effects of climate change in Missouri.

AirAutomation_pneumatics-robotic-technology-cost-effective-study

To accurately create 3-D models of plants and collect data both on regions of crops and individual plants, the research team developed a combination approach of a mobile sensor tower (in background) and an autonomous robot vehicle equipped with three levels of sensors and an additional robotic arm. Photo courtesy of Gui DeSouza.

To accurately create 3-D models of plants and collect data both on regions of crops and individual plants, the research team developed a combination approach of a mobile sensor tower and an autonomous robot vehicle equipped with three levels of sensors and an additional robotic arm. They’re used to complete a complex process called plant phenotyping, which assesses growth, development, yield and items such as tolerance and resistance to environmental stressors by correlating these to physiology and shape of the plants.

“The Vinobot collects a large variety of data,” DeSouza said. “For example, it uses three sets of sensors to collect temperature, humidity and light intensity at multiple wavelengths, and it collects those at three different heights of the crop.”

The tower inspects a 60-foot radius of a given field to identify areas affected by environmental stresses, while the vehicle collects data on individual plants. Additionally, the vehicle has a robotic arm that it uses to move around the plant and create a 3-D model of each individual plant.

The names of both robots are a combination of the ViGIR lab and their given function — Vinobot (ViGIR pheNOtyping roBOT) for the vehicle, Vinoculer (ViGIR pheNOtyping trinoCUlar observER) for the tower.

“We can measure from the tower if the plants are under any stress, such as heat, drought, etc,” DeSouza said. “Then the tower can tell the mobile robot to go to a particular area of the field and perform data collection on the individual plants.”

While the tower covers only a relatively small area, it can easily be moved around to cover an entire field. The cost-effectiveness of the towers means it wouldn’t be expensive to have more than one operating at a time.

Cost-effectiveness and efficiency are key to this new system. Using unmanned aerial vehicles such as quadcopters can take time, as those devices often require Federal Aviation Administration clearance and experienced pilots to operate over a field. Those vehicles also can be expensive, driving the cost up to between $16,000 and $80,000 as opposed to Vinoculer’s estimated $5,000 price. Those figures were outlined in the team’s recent paper, “Vinobot and Vinoculer: Two robotic platforms for high-throughput field phenotyping,” published in Sensors.

“They are not only inexpensive; they are also available 24/7, and can generate a lot more data than any aerial vehicle” DeSouza said.

~Ryan Owens

To read the complete article, click HERE.