Robotics: A risk worth taking?

Robotic development has been an absolutely significant and impressive progress from the very beginning. In fact, the ancient Greek engineer – Hero of Alexandria – produced two texts, Pneumatica and Automata, to testify the existence of hundreds automated, “wonder” machines. In the 20th and 21st centuries, robotics obviously has advanced radically from that of the ancient Greek. We now can make machines capable of assembling other machines and robots that can be mistaken for human beings.

As interest and capital for Robotics grow, so do new economic opportunities. In Vietnam, companies such as Robotics 3T and Tosy Robotic ushered in the potential inception of National Robot industry. Recently, a robot kit developed by VN Robotics and officially approved by the HCMC Department of Science & Technology satisfies the demand of youth for studying, researching and entertaining. The product allows users to assemble and develop different apps for car racing, self-propelled vehicles, and football-playing robots.

According to the Robotic Industries Association, orders for robots went up 61% in assembly applications while food and consumer goods orders increased 32% in 2016. From 2017 to 2019, continued growth averaging at least 13 percent per year is expected. The eminence of robots and its influences on humans are becoming more apparent than ever.

However, robots are putting many people on the verge of losing their jobs. International Labour Organization states that as many as 137 millions workers, particularly in the garment sector across Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thai Lan and Vietnam – approximately 56% of the total workforce – are at risk of being displaced by robots.The World Economic Forum predicted that the robotic automation will result in net loss of more than 5 million jobs across 15 developed nations by 2020.

We should also be wary about imminent perils if robots were left for wrong causes. For example, mechanization and mass production served military purposes and made possible for automatic weapons in the nineteenth century. First mobile and unmanned machines such as radio-controlled airplanes were developed during World War. It was also a period of rapid advancement in analog and electronic computing which fuel the modern expansion in autonomous combat. In addition, modern drones are one of the deadliest weapons ever created. An infamous anti-terrorism operation in Pakistan involving 60 drone attacks between January 2006 and April 2009 recorded 607 civilian casualties besides the intended 14 Al Qaeda leaders. In case of serving wrong purposes, robots are huge threats to the humanity.

Nevertheless, no one can deny the fact that robotic and automation are great milestones of human achievement. Automation enables human to manufacture products more efficiently than ever before, bringing items once were the hallmarks of luxury to the common home. Robotics help us set foot on places that are never seen before. The question now is not whether we will embrace robotic development, but how will we implement it. We are at the doorstep of a new era, the success and ethical application of robots rest solely on our hand.

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