hear the word robotics, of course, we first think of robots. For some, robots
may be fascinating and exciting; for others, robots represent a fear of the
future. In any case, the word robotisation means much more than just robots
that are fully automated human simulacra.
steam engines represent the first industrial revolution. The second and third
were marked by electricity, cars, and computer science. At this point, we may
be just at the beginning of a fourth industrial revolution, which could be
driven by automation, artificial intelligence, and finally, robotics.
The Built In website describes robotics as an interdisciplinary sector of science and engineering dedicated to the design, construction, and use of mechanical robots that can replace or replicate human actions.
are all devices that can mimic a specific human movement and help people do a
job. In the beginning, robots were designed to perform monotonous and straightforward
tasks, such as assembling cars on an assembly line. Just 17 years ago, 90 per cent
of all robots were “employed” in car factories.
Since then, however, they have made tremendous progress, as today we can find robots that deliver packages, clean houses, and provide assistance with the most complex medical operations.
of course, extremely diverse. A robot that cleans the floor at home is not the
same as a robot that assembles cars. Nevertheless, they share much in common within
have a mechanical construction that is specially adapted to the task that the
robot will perform. Of course, they also need certain electrical components to
operate and perform their tasks. The most obvious of these is a battery or
similar component that will supply energy.
The third essential
component is its programming. Without it, a robot would just be another piece
of simple machinery that would always need a human hand to help achieve its
purpose. Programming gives the robot the ability to know when and how to carry
out a task.
types of robots
The RoboBee, an 80 mg robot with a 3 cm wingspan, is just one example of the unique shapes (and sizes) that robots can take. So far, we have managed to categorise them into five primary types:
Robots operate in a
controlled environment and perform pretty simple tasks; usually, they make just
one move. The mechanical arm in a car factory falls into this category. Some
hands weld doors, others insert a specific part into place and the like. The
purpose of such robots is primarily to perform tasks faster and more
efficiently than humans could.
Humanoid Robots are similar to humans and mimic their behaviour. These robots can usually perform human activities (such as running, jumping, and carrying objects). Sometimes, they even have human faces and can imitate expressions such as being sad or happy. The two most famous examples of humanoid robots are Sophia from Hanson Robotics and Atlas from Boston Dynamics.
without recourse to human control. These robots are typically designed to
perform tasks in open environments that do not require human control. They
usually use sensors to detect the world around them, and then the computer
helps them make the optimal next step based on the data and the task they have
to perform. An example of an autonomous robot would be an iRobot vacuum that
uses sensors to move around the house and detect obstacles.
are only partially autonomous robots that are usually remotely controlled by a human
via a wireless network. These robots typically operate in extreme geographic
conditions, weather, or circumstances. Examples of such robots are submarines
used to deal with the consequences of underwater oil pipeline leakage (oil
spills) or drones used to detect landmines.
also Augmenting Robots that either enhance human capabilities or replace
those that a person may have never had or had lost. Some examples of current
augmentation robots are robotic prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons that have a significant
role in rehabilitation services in the medical field.
“steal” our jobs?
Humans have been dreaming for decades of robots that would be so similar to us that we could not separate them from humans. As much as we dream about them, we are afraid of them simultaneously. There are many books, TV series and movies like I, Robot where they even show a war between humans and robots.
In the Better
than Us series, however, the main question is what life would actually look
like with robots that would be exactly the same as humans and would perform
basic tasks such as shopping, walking dogs and cooking.
As early as
1942, Isaac Asimov, the science fiction author, summed up the “Three Laws
of Robotics”, which all robots would have to follow to ensure a harmonious
life with humans. The first law dictates that a “robot shall not harm a human,
or by inaction allow a human to come to harm.”
law says that “a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except
where such orders would conflict with the First Law.” However, the third law
states that “a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection
does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”
and artificial intelligence go hand in hand and evolve hand in hand. For
everyday life, the most useful robot will be one that can think for itself.
Advances in these technologies will make robots even more innovative, more
flexible and more energy efficient in the near future.
relatively young, the robotics industry is filled with an admirable promise of
progress, Built In wrote on their website. Once upon a time, science fiction
could only dream of such achievements. “From the deepest depths of our
oceans to thousands of miles in outer space, robots will be found performing
tasks that humans couldn’t dream of achieving alone.”
course, immediately raises the question of whether robots will slowly replace
us and do the work for us. Will the unemployment rate skyrocket? We need to be
aware that, throughout human history, all progress has meant merely making
people’s lives easier, and this has always consistently led to job cuts.
introduction of agricultural machinery alone has reduced the need for the
number of human hands in the field. However, we do not see anyone hating
tractors and cursing over them, as we have increased food production and its
what is even more interesting is the statistics showing that robots have not
caused job cuts in recent years. On the contrary, according to some data, they
even positively affect the number of jobs.
Tesla’s CEO, also stated on Twitter that Tesla’s employees were
“underestimated” and that “excessive automation was a
the Wall Street Journal found that the more robots a country has, the higher
its gross domestic product (GDP), and as a result, citizens are wealthier on
average. On the other hand, a country that resists automation loses not only
new wealth but also new jobs.
This may sound like one big fat lie, especially when we think of robots in the hospitality industry that can bring food to guests or drones that can deliver mail faster and cheaper than mail carriers.
It can be
noticed that automation, digitisation, and robotics mean job cuts and losses in
the short term. In the economy as a whole, however, they are lowering the
prices of goods and services in the long run. Society can be highly resourceful
about spending excess money, which can lead to new business ideas, businesses
and consequently more jobs.
100 years ago, British economist John Keynes predicted that people in the 21st
century would not have to work more than 15 hours a week because of significant
progress. Given that the working week is still 40 hours, is the fear of
robotics really justified?
article is part of joint project of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European
Studies and the Anton Korošec Institute (INAK) Following the path of
digitalization in Slovenia and Europe. This project receives funding from the
information and views set out in this article are those of the author and do
not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union
institutions/Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies/ Anton Korošec
Institute. Organizations mentioned above assume no responsibility for facts or
opinions expressed in this article or any subsequent use of the information