Since the notion of artificial intelligence became a hot topic around the world, experts started to list the jobs that are most likely to be replaced by robots.
It is no surprise to find that highly repetitive jobs are on the list, but some are beyond imagination to most of us－at the moment.
1. Factory workers
Experts say that the more repetitive a job is, the more likely it is to be done by robots. Skills required in the manufacturing sectors are relatively low and repetitive. In most factories, workers could be replaced by robots because they are repeating only one or two actions every day.
While China is at the crossroads of upgrading labor-intensive industries for higher profits and efficiency, robots are the perfect choice for factory owners to replace humans, whose salaries have been rising in recent years.
Zhang Ruimin, CEO of China's leading home appliance company Haier Group, said that the company cut 16,000 employees last year. Among them, more than 6,000 were manufacturing workers replaced by robots.
"The robots can guarantee a long-time single-standard repetition of work, which is impossible for humans," he said.
And more importantly, robots will not establish a union and go on strike for more pay or less hours.
2. Clerical workers
It seems that robots could easily replace clerical workers using computers, printing, copy and fax machines. You can imagine robots handling all the paper work for their bosses.
Andrew Anderson, CEO of UK artificial intelligence company Celaton, said that clerical work will be done by robots within five years.
Anderson said that artificial intelligence could carry out labor-intensive clerical tasks quickly and automatically, while the latest models are also capable of making decisions that would traditionally be made by humans.
He said that AI could read and understand the meaning of entire documents by learning the patterns of words and phrases in context. It's this ability to learn that is reducing the need for clerical workers to carry out these repetitive tasks.
Restaurant owners all share the same headaches－customers complaining about errors made by waiters in taking their orders, slow service because the waiters are too busy, and the high cost of hiring staff.
These problems simply will not happen with robots. They are designed to provide services strictly according to the orders they have received and will never complain about being exhausted.
In a robot restaurant in Harbin, 20 robots are in charge of all the restaurant's various services. There are delivery robots, noodle-making robots and even entertaining robots.
When a customer enters the restaurant, the usher robot will stretch out its machine arms and say welcome.
In the United States, a bar-tending robot is designed to make cocktails according to their customers' mood.
Of course, before the intelligence of robots is developed so they can communicate, customer experience of robot-waiting might not be as good as human waiters/waitresses.
4. Customer services
Almost everyone has the experience of calling a company－be it bank, airline, or telecommunication supplier－and having to wait for someone to answer the phone while listening to the same piece of music over and over again.
There are still problems even after someone has finally answered the phone. They might not be able to answer your questions or they are simply slow to respond. All these experiences drive customers crazy.
With the growing number of clients for such companies and lack of customer service staff to handle incoming calls, robots might be the answer.
In 2008, Xiaoi robot was put into operation by China Mobile in Jiangsu. The robot is able to answer questions from clients via web pages, text messages and other channels.
The web page version of Xiaoi answers more than 40,000 clients a day, saving 80,000 yuan in salaries.
The robot is also capable of receiving voice commands. However, dealing with the countless dialects Chinese people speak is a tough task for these robots.
Most people believe that being a lawyer is a secure job because it takes years of study to become a qualified lawyer.
During the years of study, the lawyers-to-be memorize a large amount of regulations and analyze cases in order to prepare themselves with others' knowledge and experience.
However, what if there are robots that are designed to look for data, documents and regulations faster and more accurately than human beings? Moreover, what if the robots can predict the odds of winning a case before the client spends a lot of money hiring a lawyer?
There is already a robot that can replace part of a lawyer's job. In 2011, Blackstone Discovery from the United States started to provide a document analysis service to its clients. The artificial intelligence is capable of analyzing 1.5 million documents within several days. The cost of using such AI is less than one tenth of hiring a real lawyer. And lawyers make mistakes, robots don't.
Cleaning robots like Roomba and Scooba are already famous. Their intelligence in cleaning a certain area and automatically finding the right place to recharge themselves saves humans a great deal of effort.
In China, we hear sad news about street cleaners being hit by cars every year. That wouldn't be a problem if robots replaced these cleaners for their more dangerous jobs. They can be programmed to stay away from a moving car. This is also the case for replacing people for cleaning the outside walls and windows of tall buildings.
A robot designed by Harbin Institute of Technology can climb up to 70 meters within seconds and move horizontally at a speed of 10 meters a minute. It is also capable of moving on curved surfaces and gutters.
By moving up and down at high speed, the robot can replace the workload of at least four human cleaners.
Yes, readers might be reading a piece of news written by robots. With a set of programs, robots are able to analyze data, pick key words and draw a conclusion. They can then combine the elements into simple words.
For data analysis-based news such as financial reports and sports reports, robots are more efficient than real journalists. And, of course, they are much lower-paid.
Associated Press started to use artificial intelligence software to write financial statement reports in July. The software can save 90 percent of writing time so AP can guarantee an immediate release of these reports. AP also uses software to analyze sports rankings and game results.
It is bad news for financial and sports journalists, but not for those who write feature stories. Robots are not able to be programmed for creative writing－yet.
The highly-respected profession of surgeon also faces replacement by robots.
A reduction in post-surgery pain is one remarkable benefit of the robotic surgeons. The machine's arms bend and rotate at greater degrees than a human wrist, which makes its movements more precise and takes pressure off the patient's body.
Robots first carried out surgery in 1993. In 2010, China approved the use of the da Vinci surgical system for operating theatres.
By the end of last year, a total of 3,079 da Vinci robots were operating around the world. China has 28 of them.
On Dec 8, Zhejiang People's Hospital used the da Vinci robot to remove a tumor from a patient from Mali. The robot has four arms and one endoscope system that can move 360 degrees inside a patient's body.
The robot was able to remove all of the malignant tissue around the tumor without destroying healthy tissue.
9. Disaster relief workers
A 1.9-meter automaton - complete with glowing NASA logo - was designed in nine months by a team of engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to help humans during disasters and, as with all the other entrants, will be tested in a series of scenarios it might encounter in extreme situations - driving a vehicle, cleaning debris and cutting through a wall.
The scene after disasters such as earthquakes, chemical explosions or floods is always dangerous and complicated. The application of robots can reduce casualties among disaster relief workers, regularly injured by falling buildings or poisonous gas releases.
The first 48 hours are the golden time for rescuing victims after a disaster. Designed to lift heavy things and seek out survivors, robots can rescue survivors much faster than humans.
China has already developed a type of robot that can work in fire, water or even after a nuclear explosion. The robot, developed by Shanghai Jiaotong University, is set to be widely used in rescue work.
Nursing is hard work. With the growth of the aging population in China, nursing workers are in short supply. Robots will be able to relieve people from doing labor- and stress－intensive work.
Siasun Robot & Automation Co in Shenyang, Liaoning province, has developed a nursing machine that can tell jokes, play music, can be depended on to deliver food to a patient punctually, and will do all that is required if there is an emergency.
In the United States, experts are developing a robot that can replace humans to attend Ebola patients so that humans can avoid being infected by the virus.
Try to translate the following paragraph into Chinese.
1. While China is at the crossroads of upgrading labor-intensive industries for higher profits and efficiency, robots are the perfect choice for factory owners to replace humans, whose salaries have been rising in recent years.
2. During the years of study, the lawyers-to-be memorize a large amount of regulations and analyze cases in order to prepare themselves with others' knowledge and experience. However, what if there are robots that are designed to look for data, documents and regulations faster and more accurately than human beings? Moreover, what if the robots can predict the odds of winning a case before the client spends a lot of money hiring a lawyer?