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
National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

National

PHOTO: New Zealand Heral uses wrong image to…

The New Zealand Herald made a terrible mistake of using the wrong image to illustrate the tragic death of Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland – a New Zealand-born Israeli soldier who…

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.