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Could a Robot Do Your Job?

By ­SA Today

October 29, 2014

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Advances in technology could mean people in low-skill jobs such as home health care workers, food service workers, retail salespeople, and custodians will be replaced by robots.

For example, Carnegie Mellon University researchers are developing the Home-Exploring Robot Butler (HERB), a robot that is learning to retrieve and deliver objects, prepare simple meals, and empty a grocery bag.

About 70 percent of low-skill jobs, and about 50 percent of all jobs, could be replaced by robots or other technology within 20 years, according to University of Oxford researcher Carl Benedikt Frey. He says low-skill workers will need to acquire creative and social skills to stay competitive in the future labor market.

"We don't just have machines that are faster than us, but we also are starting to have machines that might be smarter than us," says Rice University professor (and CACM editor-in-chief) Moshe Y. Vardi. "There will never be things we cannot automate. It's just a matter of time." For example, algorithms and software improvements have reduced the need for tax preparers, and computers that scan millions of pages of legal documents have displaced paralegals.

Meanwhile, IBM's Watson supercomputer is now helping doctors match patients to clinical trials and determine the best cancer treatment course.

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