Machines are replacing humans at work, but can it be an opportunity?
| May 23, 2018
Welcome to the era when machines begin replacing humans at work. Machines are now able to perform many complicated tasks that could only be performed by real human beings in the past.
Service jobs that can be performed by machines
Machines or robots are already capable of performing many service jobs in restaurants and hotels, from reservations, actual productions and service deliveries to collecting payment. For example, restaurants can accomplish the following tasks with machines:
- Accept and manage reservations
- Put customers in queues after the customers perform self-check-in in a store
- Direct customers to the seats
- Take orders (e.g., self-ordering service)
- Prepare or cook the food items (e.g., Sally, the robot that makes salad and burger-flipping robots at CaliBurger)
- Deliver the food items (e.g., conveyor belt and delivery robots)
- Deliver the dirty dishes back to the kitchen, fill the dishwasher, and let the dishwasher automatically wash the dishes
- Collect payment and feedback
Likewise, travelers can now make reservations for their hotel stays online, perform self-check-in on a mobile app or in a kiosk at a hotel, enter the hotel room with their mobile app, place orders for service deliveries and check out on a mobile app or on the TV in the guest room. All of these tasks can be performed without any real human interactions.
A more recent update is about Google’s AI (artificial intelligence) that can work as a personal assistant, helping people set up appointments through the telephone.
The "scariest" or the "smartest" part of this news, depending on how we perceive this innovation, is that Google’s AI sounds and "thinks" like a real person when it interacts with an actual human being at the other end of the line.
Service jobs that can only be performed by humans (for now)
I have difficulty coming up with a list. I am afraid it will not take long before humans can only perform the "leftover" jobs by machines, either managing the machines if we are good enough or cleaning up the workplace for the machines so that they can do their jobs without interruptions.
Using the restaurant example that was just illustrated above with automatic services, workers may still be needed where they check and clean up the place to ensure that everything is clean and in good order.
In the hotel example, housekeepers may still be needed to straighten up the rooms. Additionally, it may be important to have someone monitoring the machines to ensure smooth service delivery.
Why machines are favored over real human beings?
Delivering high-quality service in a consistent manner is the key to success in the service industry. Once programmed, machines can produce consistent outputs.
Moreover, machines do not need a vacation or sick leave, making it easier for scheduling or planning in productions. To a large extent, machines have become more reliable than human beings.
Moreover, while labor costs are on the rise, machines or robots are getting cheaper than ever. In some cases, it could cost less to "hire" a machine than a worker. As machines or robots are becoming more reliable in performance and cheaper in price, I believe more businesses would choose to use machines instead of real human beings in the workplace.
The opportunities for entrepreneurs
So, is there no way we can avoid being replaced by machines? I believe opportunities are still everywhere. We just need to embrace the changes and take an innovative approach to tackle the challenges. Here are some examples:
- Companies are hiring "robot babysitters" or robot specialists. They are the ones who manage multiple robots to ensure each machine is working as desired.
- Entrepreneurs in Boston joined the trend of automatic service in restaurants by opening a new restaurant with seven autonomous cooking pots, but no chefs.
- Robots can perform tasks in the places where labor is difficult to find, such as milking cows in Japan.
In a different way of thinking, I do not think machines are taking people’s jobs. I would rather say machines are helping people perform better and more reliable jobs at work.
The question is whether we are willing to change ourselves and adapt ourselves to a brand-new work environment where more tasks are performed by machines.
What other examples do you see where entrepreneurs identify new business opportunities as they embrace technological trends? Do you see the advance of technology more of a threat that takes away people’s jobs or more of an opportunity that help people find better business solutions at work? For what reasons?
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