Until fairly recently, robots have served one primary purpose: to overcome the physiological limitations of human beings. They allow us to lift the unliftable and move the unmovable at speeds beyond natural comprehension. In the process, they have allowed us to build bigger, better products, to grow and develop our society and meet its expanding needs. They gave our industries superhuman strength, leaving us to handle the human-powered work.
Traditionally, this has meant human workers being left with the remaining repetitive tasks—running small, detailed operations, piece after piece, every shift, every day, forever without end. However—as carpel tunnel cases and end-of-shift quality metrics can attest—this work runs counter to how both our bodies and our minds work. Simply put, it's not what humans are for.
And now, robots are beginning to save us from this as well. But in the process, we need to ask ourselves a very serious question: If humans aren't pallet trucks or pick-and-place machines anymore, then what is our role in manufacturing?
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