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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ruivivar

Amazon and MIT Unite to Probe Robots' Job Impact

In the realm of automation, one topic always sparks a heated debate: the impact of robots on jobs.

Views vary widely, but there's a universal agreement that robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) will dramatically reshape the job market. Amazon, a retail behemoth with a decade-long history of deploying robots in its fulfilment centres, has decided to delve deeper into this issue.

In collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Ipos research firm, Amazon announced a study to explore how robotics systems will affect work. The announcement was made at the "Delivering the Future" event held at an Amazon fulfilment centre near Seattle.

The study's focus isn't surprising given Amazon's position as a major employer and its extensive use of robotics. The company argues that robots help alleviate the physical labour burden on human workers. However, critics suggest that robots make human jobs more monotonous, which could be problematic for highly repetitive tasks.

There's also a debate over job numbers. While automation enthusiasts argue that technology will create more and better jobs, sceptics worry about the displacement of existing blue-collar jobs. They argue that upskilling humans to work with robots is a challenging task.

The study aims to understand how human employees and the public perceive the inevitable increase of robotics and AI in warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and other industrial settings. Amazon Robotics’ Chief Technologist, Tye Brady, addressed the job numbers issue, stating that while Amazon has over 750,000 mobile robots, it has also hired hundreds of thousands of employees during the same period.

The study will delve into key aspects of robotic developments, including human-robot interaction (HRI), a field that examines how humans and robots work together. As MIT's Julie Shah puts it, "The key to effective teamwork is building a shared understanding of what our partners will do and what they will need to be successful."

As we stand on the brink of a robotic revolution, this study offers a timely exploration of how we can optimise human-robot collaboration for a more productive and inclusive future.

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