Robotics and Artificial Intelligence: Can They Make Today’s Researchers Obsolete?

The latest from the Bureau of Frightening Statistics is that within 20 years, almost half of all U.S. jobs will be automated. Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) routines are now able to tackle many routine tasks. We are, it is said, on the verge of an inflection point. Self-driving cars are on the road today, harbingers of a driverless world. There are 1.7 million truck drivers that stand to lose their jobs when self-driving trucks become the norm. The list of careers in jeopardy as a result of technology's advance includes telemarketers, fast food employees, insurance underwriters, warehouse workers and tax preparers, soon predicted to join buggy-whip makers, record store employees, library workers and photo technicians— occupations made obsolete by the march of technology.

The list of obsoleted occupations is sobering, and the future promises that robots and AI will be taking on more challenging, higher-skilled tasks. Robots perform surgery as computers diagnose disease. Doctors, it would seem, may be at risk for replacement. Physicians, chess champions and poker players all could be replaced by computers. Robotics long ago invaded the chemistry lab. Chemistry’s Luddite moment still seems to lie ahead. The advances in automation and AI allow more to be done in the lab, uncovering still more to be done. The tools are increasing productivity in the chemical enterprise while keeping researchers employed. For now. This presentation focuses on automation’s impact on the world of R&D and innovation, and offers a long-time observer’s insights into how the workforce will cope with the change.

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