Industry has a long history of benefiting from technological progress. From the spinning jenny to the personal computer, machines have not only made production and distribution easier, but cheaper, too.
But industry’s love affair with faster and cheaper ways to produce goods has its downsides. Since the earliest days of the industrial revolution, workers in every field have feared a more efficient machine would one day replace their jobs. Machines, after all, don’t ask for raises and can be discarded the moment they cease to be useful.
That fear has once again peaked its head, as is shown in authors David H. Autor and David Dorn’s New York Times article, “How technology wrecks the middle class.”
“Have we mechanized and computerized ourselves into obsolescence?” they ask. Autor and Dorn’s study explores how quickly advancing technology may not threaten everyone’s job, but it does appear to be responsible for increasing wage inequality.
Machines, they argue, typically only replace more menial jobs that require less education and therefore only negatively affect those who either can’t afford — or don’t qualify for — college or other technical training programs.
Oxford University researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne, however, believe there is reason to fear that even many jobs that Americans believe are exempt from robot takeovers are in danger of being mechanized.
“Algorithms for big data are now rapidly entering domains reliant upon pattern recognition and can readily substitute for labor in a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks,” they wrote Tuesday in an article for Quartz.
“Those working in fields such as administration could once feel comfortable that a computer would never be able to do their job,” they continued. “But that will no longer be the case for many.”
Or, as Isaac Asimov wrote in his famous collection of short stories, "I, Robot," “Only the machines, from now on, are inevitable."
Of course a career choice that requires so much analytical thought and people skills couldn't be replaced by robots, right?
According to Business Insider, software has been developed that can now perform the more menial tasks of a lawyer or paralegal, such as reviewing legal documents.
We've been sending robots into space for years, but they've mostly consisted of little rovers with a camera strapped on.
Now, business insider says, the space-bots are getting more lifelike.
NASA's significantly more humanoid Robonaut 2 is fully equipped with finger dexterity and motion sensors.
According to Business Insider, $740 billion was transacted through self-service machines in 2010, and is projected to rise to $1.1 trillion by 2014.
And that's not to mention how much shopping is actually done online these days — 53 percent of Americans do their shopping on the internet, as of 2011.
According to Monster College, a subset of the job search website Monster.com, even though most customers are frustrated by the confusing and often annoying hassle of dealing with a robot voice while searching for customer assistance, "the rampant influx of this cost-effective technology makes it difficult to dodge."
Nothing is more human than to sacrifice one's safety and well being to save the life of another.
But some scientists in Texas and Japan think there might be easier, and less dangerous, ways to save lives. One's that don't involve endangering another human.
According to Business Insider, scientists have developed drones for sea and air inspections that can possibly be used on rescue missions.
Although it's primarily been used for reporting sports statistics, Business Insider reports that Northwestern University has developed software capable of writing entire stories for news publications.
Not only have ATMs overtaken much of human transactions while banking, but online banking services and smart phone apps have made it easy for someone to never have to bother with a teller.
Seldom does a week pass by where the controversy over the use of drones in the American military doesn't make headlines.
But as Business Insider also points out, there have been major developments on unmanned machines on the ground as well.
As Monster College, has pointed out, workers in retail felt the strength of the recession in a big way, but most American's were too busy buying their goods online to notice.
Believe it or not, there are actually companies developing robots designed to care for children, and there are apparently parents willing to buy them.
As Business Insider reports, the Japanese company Aeon Co. has developed just such an android. It functions basically as a giant entertainment center for children.
According to Monster College, robotic surgery is gaining steam because of it's precision and speed. In fact, just last year the University of Arizona Medical Center performed the world’s first successful fully robotic total pancreatectomy.
According to Business Insider, Google's decision to begin experimenting with cars that drive themselves has acted as a major game changer, making it easier to imagine a world with less and less people actually behind the wheel.
As Frey and Osborne say in their Quartz article, "If a computer can drive as well as you, serve customers as well as you and track down information as well as you, just who is safe in their job these days?"