An increasing number of workers are relying on robots to do things like driving and performing physical tasks.
But the use of these machines is likely to be more widespread and far less expensive than humans, according to research from the University of Bath.
The report, published in the Journal of Business Ethics, analysed the use and costs of robots across a range of tasks from driving a truck to running a restaurant.
“It seems likely that the future will see robots replacing many more people in the jobs that are currently being performed by humans, with the potential to have profound implications for employment, social mobility, health and well-being,” said the paper’s lead author, Professor James Cook.
“Robots are already making great progress in their roles, but in order to make robots work as well as humans they need to be able to learn, interact, and communicate.”
This report is the first in a series of research papers on the subject that I have published on the topic over the past decade.
“The researchers used data from more than 40,000 jobs across more than 80 countries across the world to study how the number of people with job-related jobs has changed over time.
They found that a wide range of industries and occupations have experienced significant changes in the number and type of jobs that have been filled by robots, and how they have been replaced by them.
Robots are often used in jobs with limited skills or complexity, and their high cost makes it difficult for workers to find suitable replacements.
“Some occupations, for example, in the healthcare sector, are particularly affected by this.””
Although the majority of robots have been programmed with relatively simple tasks, their capabilities have also increased over time,” Professor Cook said.
“Some occupations, for example, in the healthcare sector, are particularly affected by this.”
The study found that, at the same time, jobs in which robots were able to do tasks were being replaced by other forms of work, such as ‘human-machine interaction’.
“In this new, more complex and less time-consuming form of work robots are currently more common than in the past.
But as robots continue to gain in popularity, the number, types and complexity of jobs they perform will continue to increase, making them less suitable for the types of tasks that people with different skillsets perform.”
The report also highlighted that the rise of automation in the UK has been accompanied by a surge in the use by humans of non-human robots, such the Baxter humanoid robot from US robotics company Baxter, which is capable of doing repetitive tasks, and the ‘bots on wheels’ from UK-based start-up Rideau Automation.
These machines are able to move quickly and easily across the landscape, and offer people a more direct way to interact with them.
“As the number in the workforce grows, so too will the use in the workplace of these robots,” Professor Smith said.