Is the fear of robots justified in humans? Let’s debunk the myth that machines are out to get us. From surgical robots to Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) in warehouses, they’re here to help, not harm. This blog post tackles common concerns surrounding this technology, revealing the true nature of human-robot collaboration to embrace a future where the latest tech enhances, not threatens, our lives.
The fear of robots in humans, robophobia, is a real phenomenon. Mainstream media often depicts robots as the villains. Whether this fear is a cause or a result of this depiction is hard to determine, But we can conjecture that this aversion to robots stems from the fact that humans are afraid of change. Anything that appears different and stronger than us makes us anxious. What can trigger our insecurity more than an image of machines taking over our tasks – doing them faster and more efficiently? Of course, our conclusion is robots are out to get us!
But Are Robots Truly Evil?
Despite the fears that robots will gain consciousness and overthrow humans, robotics is a considerably successful field. From Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) in logistics to surgical robots in the healthcare industry, humans manufacture and use robots to their benefit. While it is true that robots succeed at doing some specific tasks faster and more efficiently than humans, that doesn’t translate into a threat to humanity. On the contrary, their efficiency means that robots are here to help us. Let’s unpack this further.
The Dance of Progress
Resistance to innovation is not a new thing. One of the oldest examples would be the Swing Riots in the 1830s. The farmers introduced threshing machines, which put the labourers out of work. When they protested, landowners mishandled the situation through oppression. As a result, the labourers took to vandalising the machines.
Similarly, in the 19th century, weavers, known as Luddites, opposed the use of machines in textiles to secure their jobs and skills. Unfortunately, the government and upper class failed to support their cause – And, once again, the workers blamed the machines.
In the above cases, the authorities were in the wrong, not the instruments. Over time, people learned to coexist with and benefit from technology. Interestingly, in some cases, tech is not even a competition. For example, the Luddites were worried that new gadgets would make their jobs obsolete. And yet, the value of handwoven has only increased over the years. When used right, innovation is there to help us. After all, we control the machines and not the other way around.
Even though humans are the masterminds behind the robots, it is still difficult for people to accept them as friends. Therefore, there is a need to show human-robot collaboration in a positive light. In this regard, tackling the suspicions one by one, rationally and logically, might help to ease this robot-fuelled anxiety. Let’s do this:
Concern 1 – Robots will literally take over the world
The first concern many people have about robots is that they will develop consciousness and turn against humanity. It is not just an idea propagated by apocalyptic fiction and movies but endorsed even by Elon Musk. The latter is one of the reasons people still take it seriously. However, Professor of Robot Psychology Martina Mara says robots will not replace humans. Besides, the claim has zero evidence other than hearsay.
Concern 2 – Robots and machines take away jobs
The second and most prominent concern is that using robots, such as in intralogistics automation, takes away the jobs of warehouse workers. However, studies say otherwise. Moreover, reports claim that such automation often makes employees happier and more skilful. This is because, usually, more repetitive and monotonous tasks are automated.
Concern 3 – Robots are not safe to work with
A lot of people assume that robots are not safe to work with. They think that machines often malfunction, leading to accidents. However, this is not the case. There are reports that exposure to robots decreases work-related injuries. There are always protocols and procedures in place, and the working environment is controlled. For example, robot manufacturing companies, like arculus, have standards ensuring safe human-robot collaboration.
Confronting the Fear of Robots
Unlike the irrational fear that robots will conquer humanity, workplace safety and job security are more understandable concerns. However, employers can address them through:
Dialogue – Talking to the employees and taking them into confidence when deciding to automate is always a good idea. If the workers have the surety of job security, they will be more optimistic about using technology.
Training – Reskilling and preparing the workforce for automation will also work. Devising training programs for the current employees and helping them keep up with the latest technology in the field can be quite helpful.
Promotion – Employers could incentivise employees to undergo the required training by offering promotions to those who effectively learn how to coordinate the machines. Not only would that make the workforce happier, but it would also save the cost of hiring new people. Finally, it can curb the general fear of machines in society.
The Takeaway: Human-Robot Collaboration
In short, regardless of what science fiction tells us, the future is not a battleground between humans and robots. Instead, it is a collaborative stage where technological progress can help humans thrive. So, are robots taking over the world? If, by taking over, you mean accomplishing a lot for humans and thus becoming mainstream, sure! But if you mean rising against us and destroying us? Not today, Terminator!