Could a robot do your job? Robots or, more likely, robotics have been taking over human jobs for decades. Do you feel like your job is safe from robot encroachment? I’m hoping that my sales job is too nuanced for a robot, but I may just be fooling myself.
I recently read an article on LinkedIn by Alec Ross titled “Could our future nurses and caregivers be robots?” Ross postulated that, in a reversal of the norm, robot technology for care-giving and companionship might be a technology that reaches the mainstream through adoption by the elderly first. That’s right, young people, your grandma might get a Jetson’s family style Rosie the robot maid long before you do.
She might have to.
Many countries are reaching a critical juncture in the care-giver type jobs, including nurses. It’s all due to a combination of people living longer, people in prosperous, developed countries not having enough children to replace themselves and the fact that care-gin jobs tend to be low paying and experience high turnover because of the low pay and also because of high rates of work-related injuries (mainly due to lifting patients).
Japan is a prime example of this. But they have the added pressure of very strict immigration laws that prevent them from bringing enough nurses and other care-givers into the country. Much of the rest of the industrialized world is in a similar boat.
Interestingly, the United States is an exception to this so far - not because we are having more children and not because we aren’t headed for a high percentage of the over 65 crowd, but because we have liberal immigration policies.
The solution that Japan is working on (as many other countries) is creating robots to do care-giving and nursing work. The interesting thing is that, beyond just creating robots or robotics that can help the elderly stand, help paralyzed people work, perform menial tasks, and replace diseased or aging body parts, they are working on robots that have an equivalent to hand/eye coordination (enough to play an old Atari game), respond to human touch and react to facial expressions that clue them into emotions. This robot would definitely represent a better boyfriend than the one I had in the 8th grade.
They are also creating robotic pets, which have soft outer “skin” and respond to human touch, to replace cats and dogs as companions for the elderly in places where live pets are not allowed or where the person would be unable, because of their own health issues, to take care of a pet that needed to be fed and walked.
This all got me to thinking about whether or not a robot could be programmed to preach the Gospel, feed the flock and help the poor. Remember that Jesus said, in Luke 3:8
“Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Why couldn’t He use robots?
Any one of us can have days where we are simply “going through the motions” as a Christian. We can do what we are supposed to do, but do so in a way that is devoid of true love or without a passion for God’s word or His people or the suffering of this world.
The Bible addresses this I Corinthians 13, v 3 “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.” Without the right focus, motivation or heart, even giving away everything you have or giving your life is not profitable. It is just be going through the motions – much like a robot could.
There is another interesting concept that comes up when we think about robots encroaching on human territory. That is the concept of singularity – that theoretical point in time when artificial intelligence will match or surpass human intelligence. In the Terminator movies, once singularity was achieved, a self-aware computer launched war on humans.
Some people fear that is exactly what will happen. Others feel it would not come to that but would only enhance the human experience – making us better. By the way, Mathematician Vernor Vinge (author of the essay “the Coming Technological Singularity” and the science fiction novel about singularity called “Marooned in Real-time”) predicts singularity will occur in 2023 but futurist Ray Kurzweil (author of“The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology) gives us until 2045. I could live to see it happen.
But, really, aren’t we humans, by nature, created to achieve singularity with God? Not singularity by its definition of unique or distinct, like will supposedly occur when robots become self-aware. But singularity by one of its alternate definitions, which is “the point where all parallel lines meet.”
We start out, when we accept Christ, get baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, moving at a parallel with God. However, through our Christian journey, we come to the point when after the resurrection our parallel lines meet and we are actually completely at the same place in thought, word, deed and nature as God.
Like robotics that can replace diseased or missing human body parts, through the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, God replaces our faulty human parts with His superior ones. He replaces an attitude of self with one of selflessness. He replaces hate with love and forgiveness.
God talks about this type of rebuilding in Ezekiel 36:26-27 “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
Don’t worry, according to Ken Goldberg, a robotics expert and UC Berkeley professor, while robots will “become increasingly human,” the “gap between humans and roots will remain.” He says, “It’s so large that it will be with us for the foreseeable future.”
Well, the gap between God and man is even huger than that between man and robot. But we do know that that gap will be closed in the Kingdom. In the meantime, let’s do our jobs as Christians with a true heart and deep love for our fellow man. We should not be robot like in our service to God, to His people or to the suffering world around us.
Or God might as well use robots to do our work.
I’d love to hear your thoughts too. Write me at:
About this N.E.W. Church Lady – She is just an average middle aged woman who has been a believer and church attender all her life. She is married with three grown children. She lives in a small town and works in sales. Her hobbies are fitness, reading, cooking, writing and travel.