There is no question that advances in technology have brought huge benefits to humanity – the eradication of diseases like smallpox, space travel, an internet that allows us to communicate with people across the planet in seconds and software that makes our everyday lives easier.
From online gaming to social networks and smartphones, we live in a very different world to that of our ancestors. But as these advances have come about, they have precipitated the rise of the robots.
From simple repetitive manufacturing tasks to advanced artificial intelligence, automation is becoming a bigger part of the global economy day by day. South Korea, for example, has 437 robots for every 10,000 employees – and the advance is showing no signs of stopping. In fact, it’s speeding up.
Online gambling has taken the revenue away from brick-and-mortar casinos
There are even hotels in South Korea which employ robots to carry out tasks responding to guests’ requests in different languages, cleaning the rooms and preparing food. The idea there is to replace 90% of its hotel staff with robots – a scary prospect but one that frees people up to explore other avenues, at least.
In 2015, the chief economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, predicted nearly half of all occupations in the UK were likely to go to the robots. That’s some 15 million jobs. Although robots represent the sharper, scarier end of technological progress, tech, in general, is causing massive disruption across every sector of the world’s economy.
The high street is giving in to the online world – especially in the world of retail, where ecommerce is increasingly taking over through highly refined strategies aimed at winning more customers. Bricks-and-mortar stores are disappearing, and bank branches have seen a 32% decline in business as more people are using apps to manage their money. Technology is also well embedded in the world of fashion, with VR headsets being used at some of the showpiece events in the fashion calendar.
The online world is also starting to take over the world of gambling. Gambling has become a largely digital phenomenon, particularly in the UK, where it now accounts for 33% of all gambling revenue. Bingo is hugely popular in the UK – and accordingly, online bingo has exploded in popularity. And that’s hardly surprising, with it being a no-brainer to gamble online from the comfort of your own home rather than find your way to land-based bingo premises. Online gambling is increasingly realistic, even replicating the community aspect of the traditional game using lively forums and bingo chat rooms. And like other brick-and-mortar stores, online bingo sites offer loyalty programs to reward their customers based on the frequency they play on the site.
Huge numbers of job losses are a certainty
One of the worries about automation is that it will mean the consumers who might have previously spent their wages on products will no longer be able to afford to – because their jobs are now being done by robots. The World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, said in 2016 that up to 77 percent of all the jobs in China and 85 percent of those in Ethiopia are under threat. The cost of a production robot, it seems, is even cheaper than a worker in China.
So are the industrialists taking us down the route of no return? Some experts predict that robots will become so sophisticated they’ll be able to repair the other robots when needed – and even build new factories.
Automation could usher in a golden era of leisureWhat will we do when we’re no longer working? This change in our lives, although likely to happen in a relatively short space of time, won't happen overnight. But this kind of revolution is nothing new. Humans have always been adaptable to new situations, and it is likely that we'll quickly get used to a new world of leisure. When the industrial revolution came along in the nineteenth century, millions of people left their rural lives to move to the factories to work. This was a huge demographic change – marking the shift from an agricultural society to an industrial one in only a few decades.
If a similar sort of change occurs, think of all the things that we manage to do now when we've finished work for the day. Think what new things we would be able to do with all the extra time? Think how much more time we could spend with our families and our loved ones. There’s also a good chance that any new social order will require us to spend more time helping those less able than ourselves – which could be a brilliant thing for humanity.
So keeping fit, for those that enjoy running or cycling or simply going to the gym, could result in some seriously fit people. Perhaps traveling is your thing. With more people available to travel at any time, the world would get even more interconnected and empathetic – potentially breaking down borders across the globe. Going out with friends was usually limited by time but the new world wouldn't any such constraints. If it is sunny, then we'll go to the beach every day – until it rains.
So let's not despair that everything is changing. The lives of people have always changed, and although some people are resistant to it, change has made all our lives better. Advanced robots that 'do all the work' are going to make our lives exactly what we want them to be. Try to imagine a life where the hardest part of your day will be deciding what to do first. The likelihood is that we'll still be complaining because there won't be enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to rather than all the things that 'have' to be done. And how awful will that be, exactly?