Pretty Sweet Tech: What Robots Can’t Do

Nowadays, many robots are infused with artificial intelligence (AI). It may seem like robots can do anything, but they really can’t.

As librarians, this is good information to have. Some libraries help patrons with professional development. Help steer them towards  jobs that robots will not likely be able to do in the near future, if ever. To do this, it helps to first know what AI is and how it works.

AI is basically software that writes itself and can perform particular tasks. AI has a learning curve. Quite literally. The new machine must be trained by a large amount of data so it can detect the correct patterns and replicate the correct action(s). In the beginning, a human operator might supervise this machine and take note of any mistakes made. These mistakes will be logged and a new set of data will be fed to the AI software to correct the mistakes. This process is repeated until the machine is operating correctly in an unsupervised setting.

Let’s use the example of self-driving cars. There are several variables that go into driving. The car would have to be fed lots of information, including how to detect a stop sign. But if the car was only fed images of stop signs during the day, it might miss stop signs at night.

Needless to say, AI has a long way to go. It is powerful and has great potential, but it can’t do everything. Bernard Marr estimates that AI will take over “receptionists, telemarketers, bookkeeping clerks, proofreaders, delivery couriers, and even retail salespeople” (7 Job Skills of the Future (That AIs and Robots Can’t Do Better Than Humans).

But robots can’t feel. They may appear creative at times, but they are just programmed. Robots will never be the underdog that sees impossible odds and decides to try it anyway. Robots will never truly care about people. If patrons walk in asking which jobs are going to be safe from robots, steer them towards cultural preservation, emotion/ empathy based jobs, and creative problem-solving with human interaction. Humans will also be necessary to build, maintain and improve upon robots and AI.

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