What it is: Lowe’s new robots will be able to greet customers and show them where to find items.
There’s a common belief that robots and automation can only replace tedious, repetitive tasks such as those on an assembly line. However, Lowe’s is introducing a riot to their retail stores that can greet customers and lead them to desired items. From a business perspective, these robots can also scan aisles to track inventory.
While humans could do these jobs as well, it’s far more accurate to let a robot do this instead. The problem is that humans aren’t good at repetitive tasks of any kind whether they involve manual labor on an assembly line or simply answering questions to lost customers looking for specific items in the store. if there’s a repetitive task whether physical or mental, a robot will likely do it better and cheaper.
Computers and robots are meant as told to assist humans. If you’re worried that a computer or robot can replace your job, just ask yourself if you’re doing a creative task that humans are best at, or a repetitive task that machines are better at doing. If your entire job is focused more on acting like a machine, your job is definitely in jeopardy. Even if a robot or computer doesn’t take over your job, doing the same repetitive tasks is a recipe for boredom. If you don’t want to get out of a job like that, chances are good you’re fearful that you might not find something better.
Always remember that tools are meant to assist people, not replace them. If you can be replaced by a machine, then you’re probably not doing a job you want to do anyway. Spreadsheets never replaced accountants, but they did make it possible for accountants to do their work faster, easier, and more accurately. Word processors replaced typing pools, which treated humans like replaceable cogs in a machine. No one’s clamoring for a return to typing pools to create more jobs. Likewise, no one should be clamoring for eliminating computers and robots so more people can go back to doing mindless, tedious tasks.
Computers, robots, and automation will eliminate jobs, but if you don’t like that, just eliminate electricity and create more jobs for whale oil distributors and whale oil lamp manufacturers. Get rid of telephones and give more jobs to the post office and telegraph offices so you can communicate slower than before. Get rid of cars and go back to riding a horse to give jobs to blacksmiths and stable hands.
Lowe’s robots are noteworthy because it’s the start of making robots part of our everyday life. If a robot greeted you today, it’s a novelty but tomorrow it will be commonplace. If a robot greeted you in the past, it would seem like science fiction.
Expect to find more robots helping people out. This will eliminate more tedious jobs and create more interesting jobs for people to design robots, repair robots, and even sell used robots.
Lowe’s robots will interact with people through speech recognition, which Siri helped introduce years ago. Now speech recognition is commonplace with Cortana, Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa. Speech recognition seemed like science fiction ten years ago. Now it’s widely accepted and used. In Japan, they even have robots manning hotel desks that can greet you in a variety of different languages as well.
If you’re worried about robots taking over the world, you should really be worried about bad people taking over the world, and the only way bad people can ever get power is when they have the support of people who don’t recognize who the bad people will be. Robots can no more take over the world than word processors can take over novel writing. The real threat from robots isn’t that they’ll eliminate jobs or enslave humanity, but that bad people will use robots to eliminate jobs and enslave humanity.
Robots are tools and tools are never the real danger. Bad people will always be the real danger. The next time you meet a robot in a retail stores, chances are good you’ll find it’s more enjoyable and less stressful to deal with a robot than with some people. The real secret to the future is not to cling to jobs that force you to act like a robot, but to make yourself indispensable as a unique human being.
By being you in such a way that others benefit from your activity that can only come from you, you’ll never be in danger of losing your job to a machine.