Scrolling through the channels on my app-based broadcast TV provider, I briefly stopped to watch a few minutes of the 1990 sci-fi movie, Total Recall. It brought back fond memories of my adolescent years, and many hours binging on Schwarzenegger cinema.
A scene in the film — which takes place in 2084 — that got me thinking involved android cab drivers serving as a standard mode of transportation. Creepy, yet efficient, I do wonder if this type of high-functioning technology is really 65 years away?
I doubt it, given the pace at which equipment automation and machine learning is being engineered. As I’ve discussed in this column before, commercialization of autonomous systems is fast approaching and recent momentum in the ag industry suggests unmanned implements on the horizon at the edge of a farmer’s field.
So can you picture a fully automated android version of an operator in the cab of a tractor in the next 5 or 10 years? OK, maybe not. But at the very least, sophisticated robots are poised to enhance or even replace a high volume of jobs today.
A recent report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch suggests that by 2035, some 800 million total jobs could be obsolete as a result of automation. Artificial intelligence is one of the trends analysts identified as next-generation robotics are expected to be “transformative” throughout the world.
Now this isn’t the first report and certainly won’t be the last to forecast the impact automation will have on the global job market. But it does note the cost of robotic systems is on the decline, and expected to continue to fall by more than 20% during the next 5 years.
Cheap, reliable labor could be a strong selling point — particularly in the ag industry as both dealers and farmers are challenged to find and retain permanent employees.
So, will we see more automated diagnosing of precision hardware problems where a skilled precision specialist works in tandem with a robotic “apprentice” to troubleshoot and fix on-farm machinery issues?
Maybe, but the human element is likely to remain an important one in establishing and maintaining customer relationships. Capable communication is a sought after skill among precision specialists, and that’s not something I’m convinced robots can replace, even in a science fiction movie.