Published in AI

Robots will do a third of your chores in a decade

by on23 February 2023

As you are forced to eat a cricket sandwich because you are jobless and broke

Within a decade, around 39 per cent of the time spent on housework and caring for loved ones could be automated, according to a new report prepared by Japanese and British boffins.

Researchers from the UK and Japan asked 65 artificial intelligence (AI) experts to predict the amount of automation in common household tasks in a decade.

Grocery shopping was likely to see the most automation, while caring for the young or old was the least likely to be impacted by AI.

The research aimed at discovering the impact robots might have on unpaid domestic work. 

"If robots will take our jobs, will they at least also take out the trash for us?", the boffins asked.

Robots "for domestic household tasks", such as robot vacuum cleaners "have become the most widely produced and sold robots in the world" the researchers noted.

Researchers found that male UK experts tended to be more optimistic about domestic automation compared with their female counterparts, a situation reversed in Japan.

Oxford Internet Institute's Dr Lulu Shi said that the tasks which experts thought automation could do varied: "Only 28 per cent of care work, including activities such as teaching your child, accompanying your child, or taking care of an older family member, is predicted to be automated." Technology was expected to cut 60 per cent of the time we spend on grocery shopping. 

The report warns that some predictions will be way off the mark. In 1966, TV show Tomorrow's World reported on a household robot which could cook dinner, walk the dog, mind the baby, do the shopping, mix a cocktail and many other tasks. If its creators were only given £1m the device could be working by 1976, ran the news story.

That never happened, along with other vapourware such as the jetpack and the Apple car.

Ekaterina Hertog, associate professor in AI and Society at Oxford University and one of the study authors draws parallels with the optimism which has long surrounded self-driving cars: "The promise of self-driving cars, being on the streets, replacing taxis, has been there, I think, for decades now - and yet, we haven't been able quite to make robots function well, or these self-driving cars navigate the unpredictable environment of our streets. Homes are similar in that sense".

But the technology can be expensive. If systems to assist with housework are only affordable to a subset of society "that is going to lead to a rise of inequality in free time". 


Last modified on 23 February 2023
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