Rise of the Machines

The doom and gloom of the future job market is regularly speculated in the media. We are told that the rapid development of technology is likely to result in robots fulfilling 6.5 million jobs in Australia alone by 2030 (1) and the Bank of England has previously warned that up to 15 million jobs are at risk in Britain (2).

The ability of robots to do repetitious tasks accurately and at speed, as well as analyse and sort huge amounts of data, make them ideal candidates for many jobs. But I wonder how these technological developments will affect the design industry and is it really going to be as bad for the humble human as we are being led to believe?

There is no denying that technology has revolutionised our lives over the past 20 years, since the internet and mobile phones became ubiquitous with everyday life. Jobs within certain sectors have disappeared as a result but for the vast majority the gains outweigh the losses. The optimist in me sees this trend continuing; our jobs have evolved gradually over time whilst computers, email and mobile phones have become integral tools for the office worker. Just as these developments have allowed us to work faster and more efficiently, robotics can do the same if we learn to work with them and not compete against them.

The idea of utilising the new with the old has been the theme of numerous design exhibitions over recent years but it is being put into practice at Urban Art Projects (UAP), a forward thinking design and manufacturing facility with studios and workshops globally. Maynard visited the Brisbane factory last month and were excited to see augmented reality being used to guide workers in assembling structures, virtual reality to create 1:1 scale models for manufacture and smarter CNC machinery that works more efficiently to achieve better results. UAP work primarily with artists, designers and architects in helping to bring their wildest ideas to life. This collaborative approach between artist and manufacturer is being realised through the new and exciting medium of AI, AR and robotics, delivering artistic and manufacturing innovation.

It strikes me as a beneficial partnership in which each party pushes the other forward. The outcome of these collaborations is unarguably astonishing and begs the question, are the rest of us really making the most of this new technology?

Just as 3D printing has made manufacturing more accessible to non-designers and brought manufacturing and design closer together in a more flexible and efficient process, I hope advances in robotics will have a similar effect. It’s human instinct to resist change but as we all know resistance is futile so I say we should welcome our new colleagues with open arms and take them to the pub for an impromptu welcome party!

 

 

1   https://www.afr.com/leadership/workplace/devastating-robots-to-take-6-5-million-jobs-20190329-p51901

2   https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/nov/12/robots-threaten-low-paid-jobs-says-bank-of-england-chief-economist