Humans have weighed the pros and cons of robots for decades. On the one hand, they automate processes that can be tedious and slow for humans. On the other hand, they do jobs humans might otherwise be paid for.
But the likelihood you’ll lose your job to a robot at some point in your life is slim, right? Well, Foxconn, the largest contract electronics manufacturer in the world, announced last month that it automated 60,000 jobs in one of its factories, replacing human workers with robots.
But that’s manufacturing. It couldn’t happen in other fields, right?
Not so fast. Here are nine jobs in which robots are showing some real proficiency.
Back in 2011, the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center launched an automated, robotics-controlled pharmacy at two UCSF hospitals. Not a single error occurred in the 350,000 doses of medication prepared during the system’s recent phase-in.
The move has helped human pharmacists move toward clinical decision support and consultation roles.
2. Cab Drivers
Google has been working on automated cars for some time now, but how about automated taxi cabs … that fly?
Chinese company Ehang designed a giant quadcopter designed to carry a single passenger — and it needs no pilot. The 184 drone has no controls — not even a joystick or steering wheel. In fact, it’s just a seat and a small tablet stand.
To fly it, the user enters the cockpit and chooses a destination from the accompanying mobile app.
3. Debt Collectors
Debt collection, like many sectors of the economy, has started to go digital. So if the idea of talking with a debt collector automatically puts your stomach in knots, you may be in for a pleasant surprise: In the not-too-distant future, your debt collector may be a computer. Companies like TrueAccord are using collections centered around an online dashboard that allows both the creditor and the debtor to view account balances, set up and manage a payment plan and track progress toward paying the debt 24/7.
4. Bank Tellers
When’s the last time you actually went to a bank? Even to the drive-thru? ATMs and apps automated a lot of banking services, but at least one bank, Coastal Federal Credit Union, implemented “personal teller machines” that do much of what the teller could.
The bank reduced teller staff by 40% because of the move. Other banks are experimenting with similar options.
NASA’s Robonaut2 is an android stemming from a partnership with General Motors. It is expected to initially handle jobs like cleaning the International Space Station and assisting human astronauts, but NASA says it expects it could one day help spacewalkers make repairs or perform scientific work.
6. Restaurant Servers
Some restaurants have placed iPads on dining tables, allowing customers to skip human interaction and place orders with the kitchen themselves. Eatsa in San Francisco’s Financial District has gone a step further, eliminating servers from delivering meals to customers. Instead, they appear in a small glass compartment when ready. The food is still prepared by humans, so at least cooks have nothing to worry about — yet.
In January 2015, the Associated Press revealed that its robot, Wordsmith, had been churning out written content since July 2014 without any human intervention.
AP implemented the robot’s business-related stories on corporate earnings and stock market performance and more recently began using the robot writer for local sports stories.
8. Rescue Workers
According to the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at Texas A&M University, aerial drones are providing inspections that can help locate underwater objects and even determine the condition of bridges and pipelines.
These robots can reach areas that humans can’t, and may be used to provide crucial help in rescuing victims from natural disasters. There’s even a robot that can get into very tight spaces and use a camera to view the situation, which researchers believe could be helpful in searching in the rubble from collapsed buildings.
The vacuuming robot, Roomba, has been around for a several years, and it keeps getting better and better. Some are even scrubbing floors now. More recently, a company came up with a robot that will fold your laundry as well. (It doesn’t wash or dry the laundry; it just does the folding.)
There are also robot options for making your bed and washing your windows, if you’re so inclined.
Where you won’t find any robots helping you out — yet — is with your credit. Sure, a lot of financial processes are automated, like paying your bills, but you still have to check your own credit reports to see if your payments are being documented correctly, and you still have to know exactly what the different aspects of your reports mean if you want to fully understand what’s in your credit reports. You can get your free credit report summary, updated monthly, on Credit.com.
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Image: Ekaterina Minaeva