Sunday, September 25, 2011

Robotic benefits could accelerate into the service and software industries

An animated discussion about the future of robotics occurred at the September 24, 2011 Boulder Colorado Future Salon. One claim is that the last few decades in robotics might be analogous to the status of the computing industry in the 1950-1970s, growing slowly but surely, and suggesting that the pervasiveness and impact of robotics could start to accelerate. There has been significant progress in agricultural automation and factory automation, and this could spread rapidly to service industries and information technology industries.

On the one hand this is the next logical step in fulfilling the ongoing human dream of using technology to provide more free time. On the other hand, while so far robotics has not had a big negative impact on jobs, a more rapid move to automation in more sectors could result in a more significant displacement of human capital.

Industries of the future
There is a tremendous opportunity to identify the industries of the future and start them. Future industries could be clustered by areas such as sustenance (food, energy, and clean resources), health, productive activity, entertainment, and well-being. One obvious group of future technologies will focus on food, for example, vertical farming and lab-grown meat. Mental well-being and enhancement is virtually untapped, although there is some preliminary activity in applying behavioral change and happiness research, and calming technologies. Some key dynamics that govern human behavior will not be going away in the short-term such as the demand for status-garnering and reputation-building (why gaming has been so successful), so industries providing opportunities for this would be well-pitched.

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