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Will Robots Take Your Construction Jobs?
There may well come a time in the not too distant future when robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are commonplace on construction sites around the world. Indeed, the US has already started taking steps in this direction, with the introduction of the Semi-Automated Mason (also known as Sam) – a bricklaying robot created by Construction Robotics that can lay 3,000 bricks in just one day and can build a wall six times quicker than a human being.
According to a report in the Times, as seen by the Daily Mail, this robot could soon make its way over the pond to us here in the UK, appearing on construction sites within just two years. Sam himself is made up of a conveyor belt, robotic arm and a concrete pump – although you may be pleased to hear that humans won’t be completely obsolete, as someone’s required to load the machine up with bricks and also to smooth the concrete over before they’re put in place.
Richard Valentine-Selsey, construction consultant, told the Times: “Robots will soon be on construction sites doing jobs that humans do, but faster.” No doubt this sentiment will prove concerning to many in the industry – although there is a skills shortage facing the construction sector, which these robots could do a lot to fill.
And it certainly seems as though the concept of AI being used on building sites and beyond isn’t going to go anywhere any time soon. Back in February, for example, Professor Moshe Vardi from Rice University suggested that a lot of middle-class people could actually find themselves out of work thanks to robots and AI, with such machines likely to take over the majority of jobs in just 30 years.
He predicted that unemployment rates greater than 50 per cent could in fact be seen because of AI and robotics, telling a conference at the American Association for the Advancement of Science: “We are approaching at a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task. Robots are doing more and more jobs that people used to do. Pharmacists, prison guards, boning chicken, bartending, more and more jobs we’re able to mechanise them.”
And that’s not all. Last year, a Guardian article focused on outsourcing company Capita, which revealed that it would be getting rid of 2,000 jobs and replacing people with robots in a cost-cutting exercise. Apparently, the money saved by reducing the workforce will be used to help fund investment in automated technology across the entire company. And Foxconn – supplier to Samsun and Apple – was also found to have replaced 60,000 workers with robots as well.
Chief executive of Capita Andy Parker explained that a robotic presence could in fact improve decision-making and help to reduce human error – and people assisted by automated robotic technology would also be able to complete tasks more efficiently, so businesses wouldn’t need to employ as many members of staff… thus saving money.
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