Generation R – Robotic Natives: How innovations affect social changes

Dominik Bösl is Senior Corporate Innovation Manager at KUKA. One of the questions that he deals with: how do innovations impact the future and society?

Mr. Bösl, we frequently read about how robots will be hailed a technical achievement similar to smartphones not long ago.

Bösl: Robotics will change the world! Robots, automation technology and artificial intelligence will develop at least as much potential to shape the next half-century as the Internet, computers and smartphones had in the past half-century. Personally, I’m convinced that these technologies will become a mainstay and enrich our everyday lives.

We are certain to witness this trend – making us the very first robotic immigrants – albeit with a very analog migratory background, but this will quickly change. For our grandchildren, robotics will be second nature – they will be the first generation R of robotic natives!

As someone who deals with innovations on a daily basis: are these all positive changes or are you also considering the risks that disruptive technologies can bring with them?

Bösl: Revolutionary technological inventions mean change. Initially, people are always skeptical. When the first rail lines were built, the prevailing skepticism was that the human body would not be able to survive the incredible acceleration and high top speed of up to 30 kilometers per hour. We may laugh at this today, but robotics and artificial intelligence are subjected to the same kinds of controversial discussions, which, unfortunately, are not always positive.

What is the source of this, in your opinion?

Bösl: There are two primary reasons: for one, robotics and artificial intelligence have arrived in the public perception through the so-called “Hollywood effect”. In the last year alone, more than ten Hollywood blockbusters have dealt with this topic – and audiences love science fiction. On the flip side, we also have neo-Solomonic experts opining on the issue. Unfortunately, this topic is viewed in terms that are often too broad, and unrealistic horror scenarios such as the Terminator or rampant artificial intelligence are conjured up.

Let’s change topics for a moment. Much is written about the potential loss of jobs due to robots becoming more and more intelligent.

Bösl: History and statistics show that technology – and especially robotics and automation – has created more jobs since the first industrial revolution than the number of jobs lost during the same period. Just look at the automotive industry, for example.

However, the job profiles of certain occupations will be changed by technology. So we must ask ourselves how we can educate the industrial workforce in the future and what the appropriate vocational training should look like. This is why companies like KUKA are collaborating with research, industry and workers’ organizations.


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