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Robotic revolution

Artificial intelligence progresses in the workforce

By Kyle Langhurst
On October 5, 2015

Graphic by Stender.

Robots in the workforce continue to replace positions previously held by humans.

Kirkwood Community College Humanities Professor, Dr. Lydia Hartunian, said her Working in America and Culture and Technology courses are poised to have students examine how the robotic revolution is advancing and specifically how it is advancing to replace humans in the work force.

“The workforce is a place where people can readily see the rapid emergence of robots. Robots are being designed to do our jobs, to think and work like humans,” said Hartunian. 

She said the advantage of having robots in the workforce is that they do human tasks faster, with fewer errors and less stress.

“Imagine a workforce with employees who never tire, never get sick, never complain and never need days off. One can surely imagine the economic boom of having robots in the workplace,” she added. 

One concern Hartunian said humans have with the emergence of artificial intelligence in the workplace is wondering what jobs will be left. “Those who express these kinds of concerns might believe that the kind of work we do is what humans are meant to do and without our world of work, humans will be left to die.” 

She noted that this is a limited view of human existence and human potential but the concern is understandable. “People have been intimately tied to human labor for thousands of centuries,” she explained. 

Hartunian said artificial intelligence continues to advance because, “humans want to extend their survival and overcome inherent limitations. We do this with technology.  

“The robots are merely the next step in using tools to survive.”

Robots today, Hartunian said, are capable of more than lifting heavy objects or screwing in nuts and bolts. She explained how robots can learn their environment and adjust reactions and behaviors in accordance with circumstances, just like humans. 

Hartunian said, “The science required for making these machines entails understanding how to mimic human functions. It requires determining algorithmic functions that allow machines to problem solve, generate new ideas, be creative, even express emotion.”

According to Hartunian, scientists have to decode what the brain does when it is feeling sad, or decode which parts of the brain contribute to creativity in the arts, in music, in problem solving or in feeling. 

Maddison Wood, Liberal Arts, is a student in Hartunian’s Culture and Technology class, and said she was surprised how advanced robots are today. She said she watched a video in class that showed human-like robots interacting and conversing with other humans. “They looked so authentic,” she added.

Wood said she is hoping to become an emergency room nurse. 

She said the class with Hartunian has allowed her to think about the possibility of her future position being filled by robots. “[Robots] are already used in surgical technology and other areas of the medical field,” Wood said. 

Hartunian mentioned that among the different robots today,some are being used to diagnose medical conditions. 

“We have bots that clear gutters, prep food for restaurants, package orders for Amazon, build homes and serve in restaurants...what would you do if a robot took your job?” Hartunian questioned.

Visit for access to some of Hartunian’s class material showing the advancement of robots in the workforce. 


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