Dinnertime games and chats with your kids develop their social and thinking skills, as well as offering quality family time. To get young minds thinking about their future in a rapidly advancing world, introduce ‘Working with Robots’:

  • Ask your kids to name careers they think a robot (i.e. computer programmes and systems) will never be able to do.
  • They suggest options, and you weigh in!

The aim of the game is for your kids to see the ways in which humans and robotics can co-exist and co-operate within various fields. In a study by Oxford University, called Creativity V Robots, researchers predict that 45% of American jobs may be taken over by robots in the next two decades. Google driverless cars – a plus for bad drivers – with the, ‘er’, drive towards driverless cars is well underway. Taxi company Uber have partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to test and develop them, and Google already has working models of self-driving cars on the road.

Just as technology makes some roles obsolete, it also paves the way for new ones though: Think of the plethora of jobs in the computer field. The US Department of Labour suggests that 65% of the jobs people will do in the near future have not even been thought of yet!

Be forearmed! Here’s some info on the way robotics may or may not be changing careers…

JOURNALIST/WRITER: Computers, the rise of blogging and the increased demand for online content has made qualified writers feel the pinch. Anyone can ‘publish’ a story at the click of a mouse. In addition, software programmes are being introduced into newsrooms to help churn out articles cheaper.
OUR ‘TWO CENTS WORTH’: Often, churned-out computerised stories read that way: Generic, clumsy and lacking heart. There will always be a need for communicators, and people who can present content in a uniquely human way.

FACTORY WORKER: The rising demand for low-skilled labour, particularly in China, has led to increased factory automation. This is the area most likely to be impacted by robotics.
OUR‘TWO CENTS WORTH’: You still need humans to operate machines, and engineers to design them. Also, robots are not precise enough for certain tasks.

SHOP ASSISTANT: In Japan, Nestle SA and tech conglomerate SoftBank Corp have started using androids called “Pepper” to serve customers Nescafe coffee in stores. (Check out the interview with Pepper here.)
OUR ‘TWO CENTS WORTH’: While manufacturers are devising ways to make the androids display human emotions, it’s hard to imagine how a robot would be able to appease an incensed customer with a complaint!

DEEP-SEA DIVER: For several years, scientists have been using the services of underwater robots to survey marine habitats and fish species, and robots are being developed to dive in dangerous areas, such as after an oil spill.
OUR ‘TWO CENTS WORTH’: As with GPS systems, sometimes these underwater machines misunderstand human commands and ‘freeze’. And there are ways human divers are collaborating with robotic devices in fun ways: Consider these funky ocean-floor pod ‘cars’ that tackle the dangerous missions your kids wouldn’t want to do, and this exosuit that lets divers go to depths usually unsafe for humans.

DOCTORS AND PHARMACISTS: Robotic surgery devices, such as the da Vinci Prostate Cancer device, are already being used in South African theatres. And a VGo telepresence robot helped medical teams capture information in West Africa when the Ebola outbreak put them at risk of infection. In America, pharmacies with robotics-controlled dispensaries were launched in 2011.
OUR ‘TWO CENTS WORTH’: Because robots lack the sensitive touch and finger control we have, there are limits to what they can do. In one study, head and neck surgeon Dr Nikolas Blevins worked with roboticists to try and get a robot to rehearse and perform certain operations, but the software couldn’t come near to the surgeon’s delicate touch. And that’s not even considering the robot’s bedside manner!

SOLDIERS AND POLICE: Drones now lessen the need for human soldiers to launch attacks, and a company called Knightscope is building the K5, a kind of RoboCop with multiple sensors that monitors criminal activity.
OUR ‘TWO CENTS WORTH’: Robots instead of soldiers or police raises serious ethical questions, which are being tackled by experts from various disciplines in the growing field of roboethics.

CHEFS: Moley Robotics’ unveiled robochef, which records human movements and then repeats them to make a meal, and plan to have it on the market by 2017.
OUR ‘TWO CENTS WORTH’: It’s hard to imagine that a robot will be able to devise a creative meal without the fine-tuned human sense of taste… especially given the turn towards everything homegrown and homemade.

PILOT: Did you know that pilots spend less and less time controlling the aircraft? Aviation is already heavily automated, and there are plans to make it even more so.
OUR ‘TWO CENTS WORTH’: A lot of people are scared of flying as it is… Would you want to get into a remote-controlled plane? Thankfully, collaborative robots (such as the Air-Cobot) see humans and machines working together to make flying safer and more efficient.

So, which jobs are still hard for robots to do, then?

Some jobs will always be done better by people. Robots still perform poorly when it comes to social intelligence, perception, mobility, finger dexterity and creativity. In fact, of the 18% of jobs at low or no risk from automation, the majority are in creative fields. Jobs in emergency management, financial management, therapy, machinery supervision and repairs, audiology and the arts are pretty safe. Then there is the big demand for IT specialists, engineers, artificial intelligence specialists and technicians to actually work in the fields of robotics and computer automation.

The reality is that robots are coming, and if that sounds like a sci-fi horror movie to you, then it probably is, but being forewarned is forearmed and your kids can make a conscious choice to co-exist with fellow robots. To get teaching material and aids to help get ahead in STEM by learning all about the growing field of robotics, visit www.edro.co.za