People have always been afraid of robotics

Once, robots were popular in science fiction and they gave you nightmares. As scientists developed robotics in the real world, people began to worry. Would the nightmares come true and the machines got out of control or even developed their own agenda? How could humans remain in charge?

The use of robotics is here and it’s growing

In recent years, a huge improvement in the capability of robots has occurred. They can walk on legs, rather than roll on wheels, and can cope with stairs and slopes. They can respond ever more subtly to their environment, because people have applied the science to real problems to make robots useful.

What are the risks associated with robotics?

The obvious ones are those which relate to the robots either failing to do their job or doing it wrong. These have much in common with the risks of employing humans! The seriousness of the risks depends on what functions the machines carry out. As in traditional workplaces, we need to consider:

  • maintenance
  • fail-safe technology
  • ‘supervision’ and early warning systems
  • back-up arrangements.

You probably won’t be able to dispense with human beings just yet.

What are the psychological risks of using robotics?

There are two equal and opposite risks:

  1. Complacency: you can too easily assume robots are infallible.
  2. Overcompensating: you can put too much effort into managing what may, objectively, be minor risks.
What is the biggest risk created by robotics?

Because computers control most robots, there is not only the risk of an IT failure, but there is the additional risk of hacking. If someone unknown to you could give instructions to all your computer-controlled machines, they could sabotage your business or hold it to ransom.

You need to apply cyber-security to any robotic technology you use in your business or even in your home. Do you want someone to be able to turn your central heating off for a prank?

Is it time to re-read what I have written about the cost of cybersecurity?

A cartoon man looking at a computer through a magnifying-glass, trying to prevent hacking into robotics

A cartoon man looking at a computer through a magnifying-glass, trying to prevent hacking into robotics

Should you eliminate the risks by not using robotics?

It depends on the nature of your business and whether robots improve the  service you provide and/or save you a lot of money. Generally, I advise clients to manage risks rather than avoid them, where the risks are linked to opportunities. Let’s not be afraid of robots, but let’s make sure we are the ones in control.