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Anthony Lott
Dr. Jizi
UWRT 1102-009
19 April 2016
An Exploratory Essay: Automation in the Workplace
My curiosity into automation was sparked from the idea that maybe one day our daily
chores and jobs will be surpassed by the advancement of technology. What is automation
anyway? Basically, automation is when a machine, robot, or computerized system takes over an
occupation. Just have a seat in your local Chili’s and you’ll experience automation first hand.
You can now order and pay directly from a tablet placed at every dining booth, thus resulting in
less human interaction needed (O’Toole). I myself was just dining in at Olive Garden where I
experienced such a phenomenon first hand. I thought to myself as I stuffed my face with
breadsticks, this waiter could one day become obsolete. Think about it; her job is to take orders,
which a tablet can do; and deliver the food, which a robot can do. Would her job still exist five
years from now?
So why should I care if some random waiter lost her job to robotics? Maybe I think the
career I plan to pursue isn’t going to sustain an impact from advancements in technology and
robotics. I have to remind myself that almost any job has a possibility of becoming automated to
a certain extent. Even a simple farmer, the heart of this country, has a chance of experiencing a
level of automation with the advancement in autonomous tractors, but I’ll discuss that later
(Dietsch 9). More instances of automation could result in a loss of jobs and a scene of turmoil
caused by outrage and aggression. Imagine an entire industry completely wiped out because a
corporation wanted to increase profits, resulting in the use of robotics instead of paid employees.

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These are the problems we face as our technology becomes faster, smarter, and more versatile
with every passing year. Could there be any positive results from automation? I must explore the
entirety of automation to draw any conclusions.
As stated previously, the idea of automation could completely destroy an industry, but
why would a corporation adopt such a policy? Look no further than what has been apparent in
the news lately. People are demanding that the minimum wage be increased so that they can
sustain a normal and enjoyable life. With this unrealistic demand of higher wages comes the risk
of companies applying robotics in place of workers to offset the need to pay extra. One
prominent sector undergoing such controversy is the fast food industry. As the demand for higher
minimum wage continuous, so will the companies interests in robotics to replace those workers
(O’Toole). I would enjoy my fast food being served to me by a nonjudgmental robot that doesn’t
complain every time I place a complicated order. On the other hand, I have a sense of empathy
towards those that would be impacted by such an application. According to a recent study by the
University of Oxford, the idea isn’t as unlikely as some might imagine. They stated that there is a
92% chance that your delicious fast food might be served by a robot in the next few decades
(O’Toole). According to Darren Tristano, a food industry expert, the result of automation on the
fast food industry alone would result in a drop of five to ten percent in work force (O’Toole). So
it seems my waiter at Olive Garden might want to reconsider a different field of occupation.
With the possibility of the fast food industry being completely obliterated by automation,
you would figure the public to be a little concerned. When examining a poll conducted by CNBC
in 2015, I found that the public is not concerned about automation taking their jobs. Only 5%
were “very concerned” and another 8% were “somewhat concerned” making me question if the
public is truly informed on the extent that automation can reach within each occupation

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(Weldon). Many people (55%) believe that the advancement in technology will yield more
benefits than drawbacks according to a 2015 CNBC poll (Weldon). So with such little fear and
much optimism emitted from the American public, are their views justifiable?
To investigate the public opinion of America in terms of automation, let me start by
exploring beneficial applications of automation. One important field of automation is the medical
industry. Various institutes and companies are exploring the use of robotics in the medical rooms
across America (“Robot Surgeons”). One system in the works is the “daVinciSi Surgical System”
in which a surgeons motions are mimicked by a machine and unintentional movements are
blocked out by the robot (“Robot Surgeons”). The University of Washington is also investing its
time to further improve surgeries with other mechanically assisted robotics (“Robot Surgeons).
Such applications and advancements could allow for complete autonomy in the medical field in
which the human doctor is obsolete. To me this sounds all find and dandy, but of course one may
view the negatives in which there is job loss. I do believe the benefit of more precise and safe
healthcare practices outweighs the negatives brought on by automation.
There are various other applications of automation that yield great benefits. Autonomous
vehicles are also in development in aiding the transportation sector. The use of such
advancements could help those with disabilities have a reliable way of obtaining their medication
fast and efficiently (Dietsch 8). Of course these applications are all positive in terms of the
consumer, but I want to study the effects of the population as a whole. Autonomous vehicles may
seem like a real benefit, less car accidents, faster arrival times, and a sense of security; now
imagine the number of jobs impacted by autonomous vehicles. Truck drivers, taxi drivers,
delivery drivers, all of these jobs would succumb to automation yielding job loss. Drones could
even undermine the delivery methods with the need for little human interaction. (O’Toole) The

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point I’m trying to construct is that automation can be both good and bad depending on the
perspective. For example, automated tractors will result in less waste produced by the agriculture
sector. (Dietsch 9) Sounds like a rock solid benefit, but imagine the world without our farmers,
now replaced by robots, is such an idea ethical?
The claim made by the robotics companies is that automation opens the door to new
market sectors and employment. They state that with the help of MIT and other technical
institutes, they are making it easier and more affordable to access the education needed to adapt
to the changing economy brought on by robotics (Dietsch 9). So then maybe the job market in
the coming years will be entirely centered on engineering yielding job growth, yet what if an
individual like myself doesn’t want to follow such a path? Even so, an individual may not have
the expertise in the robotics sector resulting in unemployment. I would think that a job requiring
creativity and innovation would be safe from automation, yet it might be otherwise.
If a robot has the ability to think creatively and complete unfixed tasks, the human is
obsolete in my opinion. We are thinking well into the future, yet that future is drawing ever so
close. To uncover the future of automation, I must investigate an interview conducted by
Eugenio Gugliemelli. Gugliemelli askes various questions surrounding the future of automation
to the executive director of the Georgia Tech Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines,
Henrik I. Christensen. Christensen states that automation is moving from “fixed” procedures to
more “flexible” operations (Guglielmelli 120). Christensen, according to my interpretation, is
hinting that the advancement in technology and robotics will allow for more applications outside
of manufacturing and basic tasks. Could this mean that creativity could be achieved by robotics?
Not exactly, but as new applications of robotics arise, I wouldn’t be surprised if robotics took on
creativity. For now, additional work is being done to automate programming, yes you heard

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correctly, computer programming (Guglielmelli 117). Here we see an example of a creative art
lost to the use of automation, a theme that is continuous within this essay.
After exploring the world of automation, I am left with more questions than answers.
These questions seem to be impossible to answer because technology and its policies are always
changing. One thing is for certain, automation will result in job loss in certain sectors of the
market. The question remains, will the unemployed adapt to the change by engaging in jobs
around automation, or will we see a recession caused by technology and a greed for more
money? We need to blame both the consumer, the worker, and the elites in corporate for an
increase in automation, for it is a direct result from self-indulgence and greed. More inquiry
would need to take root in possible advancements in robotics to understand exactly which careers
are to be affected by automation. I have only scratched the surface of an ever evolving topic that
has the ability to turn our society into a stagnant population.

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Works Cited

Dietsch, J. "News and Views: Merry Christmas to the Economy, from the Robotics and
Automation Community." Ieee Robotics and Automation Magazine. 18.4 (2011): 8-9.
Fwthinking. "Robot Surgeons Are the Future of Medicine." YouTube. YouTube, 02 Apr. 2014.
Web. 25 Mar. 2016.
Guglielmelli, E. "The Future of Automation [turning Point]." Ieee Robotics and Automation
Magazine. 22.2 (2015): 120-117. Print.
O'Toole, James. "Robots Will Replace Fast-food Workers." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 4
Sept. 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2016.
Weldon, Kathleen. "Automation for the People: The Public, Technology and Jobs." The
Huffington Post., 9 June 2015. Web. 25 Mar. 2016.