Coronavirus: Will Covid-19 Accelerate The Use Of Robots To Substitute Human Workers?
As a pandemic clasps the world, a person could be forgiven if they had disremembered about another risk to humanity’s way of life – the upsurge of robots.
For good or worse the robots are going to substitute many humans in their jobs, analysts say, and the coronavirus pandemic is speeding up the process.
“People generally say they want a human element to their relations but Covid-19 has changed that,” says Martin Ford, a futurist who has penned about the ways robots will be incorporated into the economy in the coming years.
“[Covid-19] is going to transform consumer preference and really open up new prospects for automation.”
Companies small and large are expanding how they use robots to encourage social distancing and lessen the quantity of staff that have to physically come to work. Robots are also being used to execute roles workers can’t do at home.
America’s biggest retailer, Walmart, is using robots to clean its floors.
South Korea has been using robots to gauge temperatures and distribute hand sanitizer.
With health experts cautioning some social distancing measures may need to be in position through 2021, robot workers may be in more demand.
Bring in the robot cleaners
Companies that make cleaning and sanitizing products have seen requirement soar.
UVD Robots, the Danish producer of ultraviolet-light-disinfection robots, sent hundreds of its machines to hospitals in Europe and China.
Restaurants and groceries offering takeaway are using these machines more too.
Specialists say as more businesses re-open we can expect to see more adoption of this technology – you may see robots cleaning your offices or schools.
“Customers now are concerned more about their safety and aslo the safety and health of workers,” says Blake Morgan, writer of The Customer of the Future.
“Steps towards automation can keep them all healthier and customers will pay companies that do this.”
There are still restrictions. Ms Morgan indicates that automated checkouts at groceries should lessen human interactions but because many systems don’t function well or break easily customers evade them and rather go to human cashiers.
Help with social distancing
Food service is also an area where the use of robots is likely to rise because of health worries.
Fast-food chains like McDonald’s have been experimenting robots as servers and cooks.
In warehouses, like those operated by Walmart and Amazon, robots were already used to increase efficiency. The Covid-19 epidemic has both companies looking to boost the use of robots for organizing, shipping and packing.
This may decrease the number of complaints by warehouse workers who say they can’t social-distance from their colleagues under the present conditions. But, according to technology specialists, it would place some of them out of work.
Once a company has financed in replacing a worker with a robot it’s doubtful the firm will ever rehire for that role. Robots are more expensive to make and integrate into businesses but once they are in and running, robots are usually cheaper than human workers.
According to the thinker Martin Ford, using robots in the post Covid-19 world also offer some marketing advantages.
“People will choose to go to a place that has less workers and more machines because they feel they can reduce overall risk,” he explains.
AI that’s as genuine as humans
What about service roles where a person is required to offer a guideline or lesson?
Artificial intelligence is being developed that can substitute fitness trainers, school tutors and financial advisers.
Big tech companies are increasing the use of artificial intelligence. Both Google and Facebook are relying on AI to remove more incorrect posts since the companies’ human content moderators can’t review particular things from home.
Robot doubters had believed humans would have an advantage in those jobs. That could be shifting as lockdowns have made humans more relaxed with the idea of connecting distantly. The advisor or instructor on the screen doesn’t need to be a real person, it only needs to think and act like one.
A 2017 report by global consultants McKinsey expected a third of workers in the US would be substituted by automation and robots by 2030. But occasions like pandemics have the ability to change all the timelines and experts say it’s really on humans to decide how they want to incorporate this technology in the world.