Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation President George Robertson has been selected as a panel member for the WorldFuture Society’s annual conference. This year’s conference will take place at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago on Thursday, July 18, to Friday, July 19, and will feature a professional member forum on Monday, July 22.
Roberston, who has spent 30 years in economic development at all levels in Warsaw, was approached by Mark D. Waterhouse, the panel moderator to speak on the effects of automation in conjunction with rising underclass unemployment numbers.
According to Robertson, the increase in unemployment in the underclass sector of the US population can largely be attributed to a raise in technological advancements within the workplace. Referencing Baxter, a new robot that has revolutionized the way robotics can be used in manufacturing, Robertson explains the ever increasing need to prepare tomorrows workforce with knowledge and advice on procuring jobs that keep them ahead of the automized curve.
Baxter, which was released last June, is changing the way manufacturers distribute unskilled labor. According to Rethink Robotics, Baxter is able to perform a variety of repetitive production tasks while working safely and intelligently alongside human workers.
Baxter is able to exhibit behavior-based ‘common sense’ and is capable of sensing and adapting to its task and environment. Perhaps even more impressive is the usability Baxter brings to manufacturers. Baxter requires virtually no complex programming or integration. At just over $22,000 per robot, Baxter has become an ideal, cheap alternate to offshoring manufacturing tasks.
“Baxter came out in final form last September. He is a $22,800 robot. He can observe a worker for 10 minutes and replicate everything they do. His goal is to eliminate all unskilled manufacturing jobs in America.
Though Baxter represents an incredible feat in technology, innovators have not stopped there. Instead, according to Robertson, work is being done to research a “sister” to Baxter. This new robot would be able to take orders and perform many tasks associated with the fast-food and restaurant worlds.
“Sally will be able to take an order and make hamburgers, make fries, and basically run most fast food jobs in America,” explained Robertson.
With the rise of complicated, high functioning robots like Baxter and emerging in workplaces across the country Robertston states that the need to create a skilled, informed future workforce is becoming more and more important.
Robertson stated, “As an economic developer and someone who is involved in community, one of the things we have to deal with is that we are a society that cannot handle a permanent unemployed underclass. We can’t handle it because it is too expensive and we are experiencing that now. Without jobs and the feeling of self worth and the feeling of being productive it has damaging effects on family, community – you see increases in crime and violence.
This elimination of jobs by automation is a series issue for society. We really have to revamp our entire workforce structure and basically for the last 30 to 40 years what federal money was doing for training was when somebody was unemployed they gave them just a few skills so they can get he next job. That next job is not going to be here anymore. Now what we have to deal with is if we are going to keep people employed, how do we take a significant upward step in skill levels because while Baxter will replace the unskilled worker we are suddenly going to have a new jobs in America called ‘Baxter repairman’, and ‘Baxter programmers’, and ‘Baxter maintenance people’. These are all higher level skills than the unskilled labor getting eliminated.”