SwRI Researcher Optimistic About the Coming of Robots into the Work Force

Yes, robots are coming to your work place, but no, chances are they will not take your job, at least not any time soon, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

In fact, Matt Robinson, Program Manager for the Adaptive Technologies program at San Antonio's Southwest Research Institute, told the Institute's annual meeting that the robots are far more likely to make your job better.

"We always hear about robots coming to take your jobs, but we forget all of the new jobs that will come to exist," Robinson said. "And those new jobs will be safer, and probably more rewarding long term anyway."

Robinson invoked the memory of the 'Luddites,' early 19th Century weavers who staged a revolt at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, smashing the new machine looms which they were afraid were going to steal their livelihood. In reality, textile jobs boomed, because those looms made the cost of textiles fall so sharply it opened up huge new markets for the product.

Robinson said what is happening in the textile industry today due to robotics is exactly what happened 200 years ago due to mechanization. Textile jobs, which are all largely decamped to Asia and Latin America, will return to the U.S. due to reduced costs.

"I think people take for granted that all of the actual manufacturing of textiles has gone overseas. I think with the advent of automation we can expect to see that come back, and there are alrady examples of that today."

Yes, robots will take some jobs, but Robinson says those are the most unpleasant and dangerous jobs which will be gladly turned over to robots.

"There is a lot of investment from the aerospace industry to get people out of the most dangerous jobs, for example, coating removal, which involved hazardouns materials on the coatings."

But he predicts there will be new jobs in manufacturing, programming, and controlling the robots, as well as jobs in other areas which will be created by robotic technology.

And he says many jobs are not in danger of being taken over by robots, at least in the lifetime of the people who hold those jobs today.

"Wherever we really need the cognition capabilities of the person, those jobs are safe, and we also have to remember that any time you put a new tool out there, you need a whole layer of new jobs to support that tool, and make sure that tool is used effectively."

Robinson spoke at the 75th annual meeting of the SwRI Board of Trustees, which included a tribute to Texas oilman and visionary Tom Slick, who founded the Institute.

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