Apple's business model is based on the idea that ever more people will be interested in ever more new products in the future. But as the middle class disappears and robots slowly displace workers, who will be left to fuel Apple's growth?
An astounding video caught my attention this week. It's a promo video of the "Atlas" robot. TMO published a Cool Stuff Found article. For quick reference, here's the YouTube video.
All of a sudden, all my science fiction reading kicked into play, and I started thinking about how robots like Atlas (and their undoubtably superior successors) will start to put certain kinds of professions out of work.
Here's a short list of organizations that will be standing in line to acquire the future, commercial versions of this Cylon-like robot. I didn't try to be exhaustive.
- The U.S. Army
- Police Departments (Bomb disposal teams, SWAT)
- Fire Departments
- Amazon (Boxing up packages)
- Road & Bridge Construction Companies
- Mining Companies
- Hotels (Maid service)
- Automobile companies (Assembly lines)
Here's a (short) list of professions that, in my opinion, won't be supplanted very soon by this kind of robot because they depend on the human-to-human element or skills not yet mature in early descendants of Atlas.
- Doctors and nurses
- Day care/child care professionals
- Massage therapists
- Karate, Judo (etc) instructors
- Software and materials (etc) engineers
- Actors and actresses
- Restaurant servers
- Writers and directors
- Politicians, scientists, attorneys, psychologists
Image credit: Boston Dynamics
In other words, this Google robot is "the end of manual labor." This demonstration should be a wakeup call to all young people thinking about their future. If you thought your career would be driving a truck, those trucks are going to be autonomous soon. If you thought you could work in construction, those manual labor jobs will be gone. If you wanted to be a fireman, those dangerous jobs will be handed over to the future generations of Atlas.
It's clear that the jobs of the future will require the exercise of those mental skills that are the hardest to duplicate by a machine. That will require a very high level of education in professions like those I listed above.
What we typically think of now as the human workforce will start to shrink. That will be bad news for some companies that depend on a growing base of well-paid customers to purchase consumer electronics. Will Apple be one of them? It's too soon to tell. Apple is a nimble company. But it's something to ponder.
Next: The Tech News Debris for the Week of February 22nd.