The rise of the robots

I met the future a few days ago. He was in a lab at Virginia Tech, 18 inches tall, had a nice smile, and he beat me at soccer. He also never complains; works 24 hours a day; demands no retirement, health benefits or promotions; will never unionize; and doesn’t talk back. When a colleague knocked him down, he did not rush off to HR. He stood back up and returned to work.

And we wonder why, in the midst of a staggering economy, businesses keep handing our jobs over to robots.
   
How many jobs? That’s a sticky question. People in the robot business tell you that their mechanized minions are snapping up mainly the three D’s: jobs that are dull, dirty and dangerous. Like working a factory production line, bomb disposal or public relations for the Salahis.

In the process, the robotophiles argue that newer, better jobs are being created. One survey a few years back pointed out that Japan has far more robots at work than any other country, and their unemployment rate is well under 5 percent. Take that, you greedy humans!

But other economic and tech analysts say, “Cool your diodes. That’s just a Replicant talking point.” They insist that one of the key reasons we are having such a hard time recovering jobs is that so many businesses, eager to save money in these tough times, are automating every task they can. Mail handling, breadmaking, phone answering, traffic control, feeding the dog, spaying the cat: “Hey, we’ve got an app for that!”

So where is Washington in all this? President Obama is strongly pro-robot. Earlier this year he went to Carnegie Mellon to talk up the idea that advanced robots, even if they take jobs in the short term, can make us more globally competitive and create much more work for humans in the long run. It’s a hard case for even his foes in Congress to counter. Arguing against automation makes you look like a fuddy-duddy at best, a Luddite at worst.

But I don’t know. As I watched my little soccer playing pal at that university lab, I kept thinking, is there anything these things can’t do? And what will be left for us? Because it looks like he’s not only ready to take over my Monday through Friday chores, but maybe my weekends, too.

– CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

VIDEO: Police seek suspect in molotov cocktail attack…

Police released surveillance video on Wednesday in hopes of tracking down a man who threw a molotov cocktail inside a Brooklyn corner store.

Local

City Council budget asks for 1,000 additional NYPD…

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled the City Council's budget priorities on Wednesday, including the extra cops for the NYPD at a cost of $94.3 million.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

Books

A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

NFL

Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.

MLB

Jets 2014 regular season schedule

The Jets will play three prime-time games — against the Bears, Patriots and Dolphins — as well as a CBS national game in Week 2 at Green Bay.

NBA

Phil Jackson talked to Steve Kerr, pushes for…

Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since firing head coach Mike Woodson on Monday.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."