Are robots taking over our jobs? Yes! Yes they are; though slowly and subtly and most of that taking over is usually happening with jobs that might be better off not existing. Though the exact opposite is what’s happening right now in some of Amazon’s massive warehouses.
The e-commerce giant is getting ready for the holiday season, and has already faced its first trials with last week’s Black Friday and today’s Cyber Monday rush. According to their own stats Amazon sold just shy of 37 million items on the Monday after Thanksgiving last year and it’s expected that a new record will be set this year.
But all those items must be hand-picked from warehouses and set in boxes and shipped by the millions in a very short timeframe. And who does that? Until now that answer was mostly low-paid workers who occasionally protested for better workings conditions and higher wages.
But now, that whole dynamic is starting to shift as Amazon is deploying around 15,000 small Roomba-like robots that silently glide around its warehouses and move massive loads of products so that the human sorters can box items faster and easier.
Since the robots were introduced, Amazon’s warehouses are reporting not only improved efficiency – some by a big margin – but also, thanks to the robots’ design, better use of space, energy and time. Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president for operations said that at least one location where the robots have been deployed will see its operating costs drop by nearly 20% next year with others expected to see similar improvements.
As Clark quickly points out, the addition of the robots is making human workers’ lives easier for now. What’s not mentioned out loud though, is that it obviously won’t be long now before the increase in efficiency and the improvements in technology will drive companies such as Amazon and many others to replace more and more of their workforce with tiny machines that only need orders and electricity.
We won’t comment on whether that’s good or bad – reality and social reality are complex, but for more info on the people and working conditions in these warehouses we suggest you listen to this episode of Radiolab. And for a short look at the future robot uprising we recommend CGPGrey’s beautiful Humans need not apply.
Source: AP | Image via Betaboston.com