Will robots take our jobs in the future? | JUAN CARLOS CARDENAS - jcc - EFE


In a very uncertain world, one thing is for sure I’m afraid - and that is by the time we reach the year 2030 - a job, or indeed work, maybe a completely different concept from what it is today. Now, if this is true, it will make a massive impact upon us all, as - work, a job, employment, is a central part of most of our lives and has been since time immemorial. But what happens when we are not needed anymore and some gizmo-thingy does what we used to do much better than we ever did it - and without all the moaning and groaning and ill-disguised truculence that we would bring to our place of work? Seriously, if you are lucky enough to be in gainful employment, what would you think if a shiny piece of kit-and-equipment that would never throw-a-sickie or eat someone else’s sandwiches in the office fridge suddenly took over your job? I suppose that we have to trust in our politicians to sort out what we will all do with our lives in the sunny uplands of a future without work of sorts, but in the meantime it seems that society is going through a period of upheaval, whereupon young people who need to be in employment aren’t - and some of us who should have reached retirement are taking on second careers.

This age and employment reversal is quite evident in the UK at the moment particularly in the retail sector. Go to any large store from Marks & Spencer to Boots from Poundland (not me of course!) via B&Q and chances are you will be served by someone past retirement age. Please don’t approach them and do what I did the other day, as in - “How old are you then mate?” as it might, and did cause offence; but then some people can be awfully precious can’t they? Anyway, once you notice that wherever you go you are being served by pensionistas it’s hard to stop counting how many of them are sat at tills and advising folk of the best lawnmower to buy and other such stuff that only old people know about. As someone who, at this time, is consciously de-coupling from his working life I am fascinated by the fact that so many people are joining the so-called ‘grey workforce.’ What’s up with them; do they hate their spouses so much that they would rather work than watch Alan Titchmarsh on the television? Don’t answer that.

This brings me to the subject of robotics. We are constantly being told that robots will soon do almost everything for us and we Homo-sapiens will be reduced to distractedly, tossing peanuts into our mouths whilst sending inane Tweets to people that we don’t even know - ah sorry, we do that already don’t we? This will be a world in which text speak will dominate, subtle human emotions will be relayed by emojis, the apostrophe will be no more and people will move their lips whilst reading. It seems the only growth area in terms of skill sets needed (don’t you hate that phrase?) is in terms of IT and related internet excellence - hey, I’m already stifling a yawn and I’m writing this stuff! I wonder if there is any escape from this projected future of decreasing humanity and increasing scientific capabilities - as a born again Luddite I would beg the questions - why and what for? To prove my immaculate credentials in shunning almost anything to do with the modern or technologically cutting edge; a number of years ago I was stood in a slip cordon at a cricket match, during the boring bits of play, it is not uncommon for the chaps there to chat idly to each other as the bowler takes an age to reach his mark. Anyway, my pal says to me - “What are you up to work wise?” Stuck for a reply I told him - I was thinking of getting into computers - “Doing what, painting ‘em?” Oh how they all laughed.

All I do know, is that here in the United Kingdom those of a mature disposition are positively sought after by certain employers, for all sorts of reasons I guess. Among them, might be a work ethic that after decades of work is hard to shake off and little things, like turning up on time, and actually wanting the job. In Majorca, you don’t often meet older members of staff outside of family run business’s, and this is apparently due to the fact that a pensioner cannot generally receive his or her pension until they completely finish with paid work. However, I have to end on a rather perplexing note. At a recent visit to Waitrose (there’s posh!) as I bagged up the weekly shop I noticed that she was having an animated conversation with the checkout bloke. What was that all about? I remarked, as I tried to steer the trolley with wobbly wheels to the carpark. “Nothing really” she said, “I was just asking him about his job and what hours he does - you know, just asking.” Anyway, I was forced to give her a Chinese burn in the car, where she admitted that she was vaguely thinking of a new career opportunity for - guess who? - ME. It appears that her new boyfriend is reasonably well compensated for his time, he keeps out of the way of his wife and he gets to chat up all those posh yummy-mummy’s who shop in the store. Hey, I’m thinking about it!