Can a Robot Do Your Job?

Just when you thought the job market was improving, here's a new worry: Robots may take your job.

“They [robots] are getting better and better. Jobs at all levels are going to be increasingly threatened,” said Mark Ford, founder of the company Querybot, which sells companies a service that enables a website to answer to customer's questions, and the author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future.

“In the near term, we may actually see that some higher-end jobs, jobs held by college graduates, are going to be the most vulnerable.”

Robots or robotic equipment have long been a staple in manufacturing and have become used more and more for all sorts of functions, such as in customer service, vending machines and increasingly for medical functions. But replacing the skills of a paralegal, a lawyer or college graduate with a robot and rendering them obsolete leaves some skeptical.

Among them is Jeff Burnstein, president of the Robotic Industries Association, who thinks that using robots is a way of preserving jobs and creating new ones.

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Burnstein, whose organization represents more than 250 companies, maintains that companies have a choice between automating and preserving jobs, sending them overseas or going out of business.

The US company Marlin Steel Wire, he said, “was competing with companies in China paying 30 cents an hour, delivering finished to the US for less than they can buy the steel for.”

Once Marlin invested in robots, they created more jobs and now they are paying their US workers $30 an hour, plus full benefits. “I think that’s a pretty good deal,” he said.

Ford, the gung-ho robot guy, thinks that the trend he envisions won’t happen for about five to 10 years.