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Rise of the robots

There are so many good things to do in life, along with a never-ending stream of challenges. If, however, technology is going to eventually do everything for us, why even bother getting out of bed in the morning?

That sounds a bit extreme, but consider some of the latest news about the “rise of the robots.” In what seems to be an increasing number of warnings, experts tell us how it won’t be long before most jobs will be performed by machines.

Some of the headlines I’ve seen recently include “The Robots and Your Job” and “The Future Has Lots of Jobs, Few Jobs for Humans.” Scary stuff, but sometimes muted with an occasional blurb about how robots are not really threatening your job.

So what is reality?

No doubt rapid advances in technology have tremendously changed our lives, most often for the better. Think about iPhones, Droids, iPads, all kind of things that didn’t exist a few years ago. We’re addicted to texts and social media, too.

Still there are a bunch of jobs that have already gone the way of the dinosaur, replaced by a variety of new gadgets. ATMs come to mind; they’ve replaced many bank tellers. Positions for typists, travel agents, factory workers and more have also disappeared.

Companies with assembly lines long ago embraced automation of any kind to cut costs, with machines never demanding a raise, sick leave or a fat pension.

The process never stops. New advances in technology lead to all sorts of ideas, some practical and others downright far-fetched.

WIRED magazine recently had a story about a multi-tasking robot (aka “bot”) that can make and flip a burger, and a gourmet one at that, in 10 seconds. It could replace an entire fast food crew.

They also noted that researchers at a major university predicted close to half of American jobs could be automated over the next 20 years. Yikes.

And get a load of this headline: “Robots Will Treat Humans Like Labradors.” Swell. A machine will take me for an afternoon walk. And I will have to fetch the iPad (instead of an old-fashioned newspaper) for my mechanical master.

Much of the march to an all-tech life is our fault. As consumers we demand more of everything, wider choices and more instant gratification. In the midst of our busy daily world we often don’t notice that we now interact with screens and keyboards more than other humans. In other words, we’re getting used to this sort of thing as it sneaks up on us.

There is some good news, though. The Washington Post featured a story about “droid dread” dating back generations. In fact, fear of high-tech advances taking over may go back hundreds of years. Much of what is feared (or hoped for) never happens. Or it takes on less threatening forms.

Every generation has aspirations and dreads, and the road ahead is always filled with bumps and surprises and wonders. And when technology replaces something outdated, new opportunities arise for those who want to seize the day. Sure, it takes work—and maybe new training—but it’s possible to find new success.

And that’s really the point. We can make the choice each day to let news and future predictions and worries overwhelm us, sometimes making us feel fatalistic. Or we can make the effort to take a fresh look at what’s around us, enjoying life and our blessings.

I was thinking about this as I’m writing this column. Outside my window is a little hummingbird nest. A couple of weeks ago there were tiny eggs in there. Today, it’s two fast-growing birds developing beautifully colored feathers, about ready to take off and display God’s amazing ability to create things beyond compare.

That helps me remember that there’s a bigger picture here: Life is what we choose to make it, and God is still in charge. Whatever happens in the future (or fear of what might be) should not steal the joy in today.

So why bother rolling out of the sack in the morning, taking on the day? Because we can.

Mark Larson

 

— by Mark Larson

Larson is a longtime Southern California radio/television personality. His voice is heard on KPRZ 1210AM and his weekday talkshow airs 6 to 9 a.m. on AM 1170 “The Answer.” He’s also a news analyst on KUSI TV. Learn more at marklarson.com

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