Last year my grandpa had a fall and my family, like many others, are becoming more and more concerned about how best to take care of him as he gets frailer.
There’s one solution that’s becoming increasingly obvious but – for many of us – it’s also not one that computes easily.
The question that many of us will need to be asking in the not-too-distant future is: would you trust robots with the people you love?
How about your business?
In the news this week it was reported that Japan’s population is expected to decrease by a third in the next 50 years. It stood at 127 million in 2015 and predictions are for it to be 88m by 2065 then plummet again to 51m by 2115.
Facing a shortage of nurses to care for its ageing population, robots are increasingly stepping up to the challenge.
Care and companion robots – which which sit and ‘chat’ to lonely people – are now pretty common sights in Japan and, on the other end of the spectrum, Toyota has created baby robots for people to care for too.
In the US there are even robotic cats that sit with the elderly in retirement homes, engaging dementia sufferers who might struggle to connect with humans.
Over on this side of the pond we might not yet be ready to welcome robots into our homes but ‘cobots’ – which collaborate and interact with humans – are already here.
Last week DHL announced it will be using cobots for order fulfilment and Manchester City fans can expect to see robots at games soon too.
This might all sound positive but automation – which is essentially ‘robot lite’ – has become a byword for threatening human jobs, and Stephen Hawking has warned that artificial intelligence could destroy us all.
The message from those in the British business community already using robots though is overwhelmingly positive.
Speaking at our recent ‘Tech in Manufacturing’ breakfast event and roundtable, Steve Mulholland, manufacturing director of Polyflor, says his company incorporated automation over 30 years ago. The decision to be brave with their business has paid off in spades, he says.
“There’s no correlation between automating processes and taking people out of jobs.
“Some of the jobs done 50 or 70 years ago people don’t want to do anymore – and actually we're in a society these days where they shouldn’t be doing that work.
“If we hadn’t automated all those processes we would have gone out of business by now. It’s a very competitive market we’re operating in and whether you have 1,400 or 1,600 employees, it's about giving security to those that remain.”
Whether you’re pro-bot or not, the fact of the matter is that the robots are coming – so it’s up to us to make the best of it.
Maybe we’re not quite ready to place our family into their care, but you might want to think about placing your business – at least partly – in their steady hands.