The Terminators of Employment

Professor Gorniak of Southern Connecticut State University explains her theories about the increase of robots in the workforce.

Professor Gorniak of Southern Connecticut State University explains her theories about the increase of robots in the workforce.

by Carl Castro

Oct. 8, 2013

NEW HAVEN – Robots have done some remarkable things for mankind. They’ve helped explore distant planets, assist in military operations, and even save lives on the operating table. Though some may argue robots are doing more harm than good in society, specifically in employment.

“We didn’t think about how robots will not only replace the work that is not wanted, the work people want someone else to do, but robots can take and will take the work we want to do.” said professor Krystyna Gorniak.

Gorniak is a philosophy teacher at Southern Connecticut State University and a Senior Research Associate in the Research Center on Computing and Society. She made that statement in her “Robotic Caregivers: A New ‘New Frontier’ ” presentation in front of nearly 50 students, faculty and alumni members at Southern’s “Ethics in the Information Age” conference held on Oct. 8, 2013. It was held as part of the research center’s 25th anniversary celebration. The event hosted 6 presenters, each discussing their theories of how technology and the internet will affect people’s ethics in the future.

During Gorniak’s presentation, she argued that it isn’t the type of jobs that are demanding robots, it’s the type of robots that are being invented that replace humans in the work force. But for Tony Fusco, a ’95 Southern graduate in computer science, the argument just doesn’t sit right with him.

“People build robots for a specific purpose, of course there’s the technology factor involved that make people say ‘Oh, now we can do this so let’s try this’ and ideas are evolved from there,” Fusco said, “but we didn’t just accidently make machines to walk and look like humans, we built them that way for a reason.”

In the long run, robots can be a cheaper alternative to human employees. Employers wouldn’t need to provide health insurance or undergo weeks of training people. At the event, Gorniak claims that future robots will eventually become teachers and care for the elderly. The statement may raise ethical question because of the human emotions that teachers and caregivers provide.

“Emotions are something you can’t see, can’t feel, can’t just duplicate,” said Welby Obeng, a senior graduate at Fairfield University studying software engineering and the webmaster for the  Research Center on Computing and Society. “We can program a robot to, say for instance cry, but when to cry takes emotion.”