Can Robotics Create Half a Million New Jobs?
From the Terminator movie franchise to The Matrix trilogy, we’ve been warned about robotics. In the former, it was SkyNet’s diabolical plan to wipeout mankind; in the latter, it was those pesky, sentient machines determined to keep humans in a permanent catatonic state while using our bodies for energy. But frankly, most Americans are just concerned that robots will take their jobs.
And whether art is imitating life – or vice versa – there does appear to be cause for concern. A recent report reveals that many jobs are at risk of being automated, even those for college grads, such as accounting, auditing, technical writing, and even computer programming.
But now, it appears that the robots may be “the good guys” helping to create jobs.
American Robotics, a non-profit led by Carnegie Mellon University, recently received $253 million to open the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing Institute. The Department of Defense will contribute $80 million, and the remaining $173 million will come from various partner organizations.
Where the robotics institute is and what it does
ARM is in Pittsburgh, close to Carnegie Mellon’s massive National Robotics Engineering Center; however, it will partner with eight regional robotics centers. Some of the more than 230 partners include 35 universities, 10 community colleges, 10 government agencies, and 39 startups. ARM also has the largest education and robotics workforce network, which includes such member programs as STEMconnector, Base 11, and Global STEM Talent Initiative.
While robots are already used in manufacturing by many large companies, they’re cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses. And for safety reasons, they’re typically not used in environments with humans. In addition, they share a certain trait with humans: they’re hard to reprogram.
However, ARM seeks to change all of that – and more.
How the institute can create jobs
Howie Choset is a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. He also directs the undergraduate robotics major at Carnegie Mellon and teaches a robotics overview class that complements course work with a custom-developed Lego Lab.
Choset assures GoodCall that the purpose of ARM is to create new manufacturing jobs in the United States – and not to destroy mankind or create a world in which we’re suspended in gooey pods. In addition to creating jobs, Choset says ARM has three other goals:
- Empower the American worker to be cost-effective and competitive with workers from low-income countries.
- Lower the barriers so small companies can embrace manufacturing.
- Make the United States the leader in industrial robotics.
“Our hope is to create over half a million jobs just from our institute alone,” Choset says. However, success involves a lot of interlocking parts. “We want to create an ecosystem where people can come to us with manufacturing problems, and we can solve them.” That ecosystem will include aerospace, electronics, textiles, and the automotive industry.
Choset says that ARM will also educate small companies that otherwise would not be able to learn about industrial automation and robots.
What about concerns that robotics will do away with jobs?
Karlheinz Bulheller of Bulheller Partner, which provides production and logistics simulation, as well as maturity and ramp-up management in the international automotive industry, believes that robotics will shift jobs.
However, workers will need to be trained to perform higher-skilled jobs. “Unfortunately, robots will replace some types of jobs, such as loading and unloading, and assembly jobs, but in the end, robotics will not put employees out of work,” Bulheller concludes.