The future is coming — again. It seems that every time the future is sighted, it becomes a whole new future which makes it unpredictable. The latest came about when a 19-year-old British programmer wrote the software to be a robot lawyer in traffic court. And it has already won a case. Actually, it did not make a court appearance but it did write and print out an appeal for the traffic offender to take to the judge. And now, robots may take over the mundane cases from the lawyers without charging a cent. Sounds good to me. What else can we expect in the newest future?
Momentum Machines are working on a robot that can flip a hamburger. The time to take making it? A reported 10 seconds. Talk about fast food. That’s almost as quick as a fry cook’s job going out the window.
Universal Robots are getting in on the repair market. They are making a robot that can manufacture its own replacement parts while it continues working. A worker that doesn’t need sick time? Probably doesn’t need a coffee break either.
As robots work more with a human, they will look more and more like a human as well. Studies have shown humans are more comfortable dealing with something that looks like them. Google has even won a patent to develop robot personalities. Just imagine ordering a hamburger from a robot with more personality than your last date.
Science fiction has had medical robots for decades. The first Alien (1979) movie had an android doctor on the ship. Is reality far away? Many believe it is closer than you think. Try a robot that snakes into your body to do micro-surgery accurate down to less than a millimeter. Less surrounding soft tissue is damaged and recovery time is shortened. Surgeries are more successful and hospital stays are quicker. Sounds to good to believe? Hesitant to under go one yourself?
Think again. It is already here. In 2000, Intuitive Surgical was rubber stamped by the Food and Drug Administration for their da Vinci Surgical System. It is in hospitals in Europe and the USA. It performs hundreds of thousands of surgeries — every year!
In 2001, the FDA also approved the Cyberknife system. It can deliver high doses of radiation anywhere in the body — again with less than a millimeter accuracy. It has been used in over 40,000 operations already.
The future may be coming but will we be a part of it? It is estimated that almost half of the current jobs will be automated meaning no human workers to pay or get injured. Does that mean our future will be unemployed? The scary answer could be yes but, even the most conservative futurist sees a future where the robots work for us. They do the work and we get paid. A guaranteed income for those of us with the time of our lives on our hands. What would we do with our new found time and wealth? What would it be like if the entire adult work force won the lottery? I would like to think we would use our new found power and assets to make the world a better place. But then the question is: better for whom? If the robots do most of the work, who will need us?