Among the many reasons why I’m glad I’m my own boss, knowing I’ll never fire myself for being obsolete ranks high! But there are many jobs out there that are threatened by mass automation — from the obvious data entry gigs and telemarketing to the startling library technician jobs, and, I’m sure, personal assistants.
But new research is showing that replacing all human employees in industrial working environments with automation is — against all assumptions — not the most efficient option.
A co-pro between the Universities of Göttingen, Duisburg-Essen, and Trier, the study has recently been published in the International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies. In it, the team presented a challenge to three different teams of workers, sporting varying levels of automation.
“The research team simulated a process from production logistics, such as the typical supply of materials for use in the car or engineering industries. A team of human drivers, a team of robots and a mixed team of humans and robots were assigned transport tasks using vehicles. The time they needed was measured. The results were that the mixed team of humans and robots were able to beat the other teams; this coordination of processes was most efficient and caused the fewest accidents. This was quite unexpected, as the highest levels of efficiency are often assumed to belong to those systems that are completely automated.”
These results give a ray of hope to humans currently working in industrial fields who have thought, until now, that robots would be taking over their positions. The combo — of human logistical capacity, and the tolerance of repetitive tasks — could be well nigh unstoppable.
This is certainly a rosier vision of the automated future than we have been led to believe. While we’re nowhere near the fifteen-hour workweek predicted by John Maynard Keynesin the early 20th century, neither are we staring down the barrel of life under Skynet. Here’s to a future for both humans and robots, working together to make life better for all!