I was at the library the other day checking out some books (yes, real physical books that are printed on paper with ink) and it was like a massive wave of confusion washed over me when I realized: Where are all of the librarians? I soaked in the view of where the counters and employees once stood, now replaced by several machines and touch-screens. As I stepped up to one of the check-out machines, I was prompted to scan my library card by an automated voice instead of a friendly librarian.
I do not comprehend the whole concept of the seemingly increasing popularity of self-checkout methods. These contraptions are popping up all over the nation. Where are all the librarians? The grocers? The real, living workers of the world?
There are endless articles and facts on the web regarding the concern over robots replacing people in the workforce, which is predicted to have a direct impact on the unemployment gap. Factory workers in China are already being phased out by robots. A robotic staff is said to be more cost-effective and efficient to maintain robotic arms rather than real people, and machines don’t require any pay or sleep. So, how long will it be until America starts adopting robots into its workforce full-time? A few years? A few months? Weeks?
According to Digital Trends, “Disney Research found a way to replicate the human face onto a robot for a more realistic robot experience.” In this “Physical Face Cloning” innovation, a person’s face is scanned and examined through a 3D technology which measures skin thickness, and even clones the wrinkles onto the silicon skin. Anyone else feel like they are living in the middle of Artificial Intelligence? Or in the midst of a real-life Skynet takeover? Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions, but it’s hard to ignore the gradual replacement of humans by machines in all aspects of life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for all of the modern technologies— the Internet and its vast sea of knowledge, medical advancements and yes, the convenience that is due in part by machines, but what kinds of consequences will human replacements bring? Will there be fewer jobs? Increased unemployment? A higher rate of poverty? Will people and robots become equals? In 50 years, will our world resemble that of Sci-Fi robotic chaotic mess or will it be a peaceful one?
Standing at the self-checkout machine in the library, I really was confused as to why they did away with the human interaction. I understand that it probably costs less to have machines as employees, but as a patron of the library I find it a lot more pleasant experience to interact with human employees rather than emotionless machines.
If you have any thoughts or opinions on the issue or if you have experienced first-hand the replacement of workers by machines, like the self-checkouts, please share in the comments.
* * *
“Robotics” image courtesy of Shutterstock.