Robots will destroy our jobs and we're not ready for it

The McDonald's on the corner of Third Avenue and 58th Street in New York City doesn't look all that different from any of the fast-food chain's other locations across the country. Inside, however, hungry patrons are welcomed not by a cashier waiting to take their order, but by a Create Your Taste kiosk  an automated touch-screen system that allows customers to create their own burgers without interacting with another human being.

Its impossible to say exactly how many jobs have been lost by the deployment of the automated kiosks McDonald's has been predictably reluctant to release number  but such innovations will be an increasingly familiar sight in Trumps America.

Once confined to the pages of futuristic dystopian fictions, the field of robotics promises to be the most profoundly disruptive technological shift since the industrial revolution. While robots have been utilised in several industries, including the automotive and manufacturing sectors, for decades, experts now predict that a tipping point in robotic deployments is imminent and that much of the developed world simply isn't prepared for such a radical transition.

Many of us recognise robotic automation as an inevitably disruptive force. However, in a classic example of optimism bias, while approximately two-third of Americans believe that robots will inevitably perform most of the work currently done by human beings during the next 50 years, about 80%  also believe their current jobs will either definitely or probably exist in their current form within the same time frame.

Somehow, we believe our livelihoods will be safe. They're not: every commercial sector will be affected by robotic automation in the next several years.

For example, Australian company Fastbrick Robotics has developed a robot,  the Hadarian X, that can lay 1,000 standard bricks in one hour a task that would take two human bricklayers the better part of a day or longer to complete.

In 2015, San Francisco-based startup Simbe Robotics unveiled Tally, a robot the company describes as the world's first fully autonomous shelf auditing and analytics solution that roams supermarket aisles alongside human shoppers during regular business hours and ensures that goods are adequately stocked, placed and priced. 

Swedish agricultural equipment manufacturer DeLaval International recently announced that its new cow-milking robots will be deployed at a small family-owned dairy farm in Westphalia, Michigan, at some point later this year. The system allows cows to come and be milked on their own, when they please.

Data from the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), one of the largest robotic automation advocacy organizations in North America, reveals just how prevalent robots are likely to be in the workplace of tomorrow. During the first half of 2016 alone, North American robotics technology vendors sold 14,583 robots worth $817m to companies around the world. The RIA further estimates that more than 265,000 robots are currently deployed at factories across the country, placing the US third worldwide in terms of robotics deployments behind only China and Japan.

In a recent report the World Economic Forum predicted that robotic automation will result in the net loss of more than 5m jobs across 15 developed nations by 2020, a conservative estimate. Another study, conducted by the International Labour Organisation, states that as many as 137m workers across Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam approximately 56% of the total workforce of those countries are at risk of displacement by robots, particularly workers in the garment manufacturing industry.

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