By KIM BELLARD
We’re not through the
COVID-19 pandemic. We’re probably not even near the end of the beginning
yet. That hasn’t stopped many pundits to start speculating about how our
society (and our healthcare system) are likely to be permanently changed as a result,
such as continued reliance on telecommuting and telemedicine.
OK, I’ll play too: I
believe we need to greatly expand the role of robots, and begin something that
resembles Universal Basic Income (UBI). They’re not the only changes that
may result, but they are two that should.
We’ve been seeing robots infiltrating the workforce for many decades, such as in manufacturing but also in many other industries.
Still, though, as our
economy pares down to “essential businesses” during the pandemic,
I’ve been alarmed at how many of the jobs remain done by humans. Not just
healthcare workers on the front lines but also all those people doing the
cleaning for essential businesses, all those people in the supply chain of food
and other vital materials, all those people making deliveries, all those first
responders, all those people all those people keeping the power on, the water
running, and the internet streaming, among others. And so on.
People hate to hear it, but the robots are coming and it’s only a matter of time before they start competing for skilled, white collar jobs.
Nurses are vulnerable –but before you get excited and start attacking me– so, too are consultants and bloggers. So get used to it, and figure out how you’re going to co-exist with and leverage the bots.
One of my pet peeves about robots is when their programmers try to make them act human by intentionally making them imperfect or have them simulate (feign?) empathy.
For example, I can’t stand it when the voice recognition airline rep talks in a sympathetic sounding voice when “she” can’t understand what I’m saying.
But apparently we’ll be seeing more of these little “humanizing” tricks, thanks to research from MIT that concludes that people like this kind of stuff. From the Wall Street Journal, we learn:
- People like their therapy robots to be baby-faced
- We feel emotionally closer to robots that sound like our own gender
- When robots mimic our activity (like folding their arms) we like it
- And then there’s this one:
“One study showed that people rated online travel booking and dating services more positively when the service communicated clearly that it was working for the consumer (e.g., “We are now searching 100 sites for you”) than when they simply provided search results. Surprisingly, having to wait 30 seconds for results but also receiving this communication of effort slightly increased users’ satisfaction, compared with receiving results instantaneously. Being made aware of the website’s willingness to work on their behalf made people feel that the service was sympathetic to their needs.”