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PCB-May2014

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10 The PCB Magazine • May 2014 to come up with ways to keep people busy. I think we'll figure it out over time, but there will be a rough patch as companies transi- tion to the factories of the future and replace hundreds of millions of jobs over the next decade. In other words, it's here, now. We've arrived! To understand where I'm coming from you have to let your imagination run a bit. You can start this exercise by thinking about where automation and robotic systems won't work. That's a bit easier than trying to come up with all the ways they will. The experts say that if you're into landscaping mainte - nance, that'll probably remain a manual task, mostly, for some time. Some form of robot- ics or automated system will likely transform most everything else. The argument has been made for years, which the data supports, that as industries move toward more automation it will lead to improvements in productivity, which leads to greater growth and the develop - ment of new industries. This will offset the loss in employment and actually drive new jobs. As those industries grow, they will need more advanced automated systems for their next-generation factories. And on it goes. Of course, if we lived in an infinite world, that cycle would continue forever. But, what hap- pens when the robots build all the robots (and they will) and there aren't jobs for people? Think I'm crazy? When Google bought DeepMind, which develops "learning algo- rithms," as part of the agreement, Google had to set up an ethics board to ensure that once all this technology is in the hands of a company like Google, things won't get out of control. Think of this: Google already em- ploys many of the world's experts on artifi- cial intelligence. They have the horsepower to drive this. It's going to happen. When you read articles written by futur- ists and experts in the field, you get a good sense of where this is headed. You don't have to work too hard to see that just about ev- erything we do can be automated. Here are a few of the systems which have become com- monplace in our society today, but not that long ago seemed a futuristic idea. ATMs come to mind first. They have dramatically reduced the need for tellers to cash checks, make de- posits, withdraw funds, and even transfer money from one account to another. It's a great convenience for most of us. And these machines are everywhere. They're displac- ing hundreds of thousands of people world- wide. Now, we're beginning to see automated check-out stands at our grocery and hardware stores. Frustrating for some to use at first, they quickly have become a nice convenience, es- pecially if you have a quick, simple purchase. Hospitals are under tremendous pressure to reduce costs and are beginning to invest in automated systems to monitor patients' vi- tal signs, and deliver nourishment (IV) and medications, etc. Certainly patient care will improve (you would think) as a result. What about automated toll collection and parking lot payment systems? How can a company like Foxconn success- fully bring manufacturing to the U.S. and Eu- rope? It has to automate. One highly trained U.S. employee in an automated factory will GOOGLEBOTICS continues Figure 1: irobot ava 500 brings together irobot's autonomous navigation with cisco telepresence to deliver a new level of collaboration for office environments and other facilities.

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