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TECHNOLOGY

New Research: Why You’ll Hire a Robot Worker to Fund Your Retirement and Elderly Care

A new report by media company Axios suggests that we will reach “peak human” levels of world population by 2,100, and that one answer for elderly care will involve robot helpers.

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BY John Brandon - 23 Jul 2018

New Research: Why You'll Hire a Robot Worker to Fund Your Retirement and Elderly Care

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

A new report by Axios might serve as a wake-up call about how you'll fund your retirement and elderly care. It might also scare the living daylights out of you.

According to the media company, the population of Earth will reach a plateau of 11 billion by 2100, but then start to decline (a curiosity known as "peak human"). The new report suggests that people will stop having as many kids, but the life expectancy for elderly folks will jump from around 70 up to 80 on average.

That means more younger people will have to work to support an aging population, in some cases as low as two working adults for every elderly person.

From the report itself: "Minus immigration, the populations of the U.S., Japan and all of Europe are shrinking. By 2050, 48 countries or areas will have fewer people. Several will see a 15% decline, including Japan, the Balkans and the Baltics, and some much more."

"In 2016, the fertility rate in the United States was the lowest it has ever been, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It was 1,765 births per 1,000 population, below the replacement rate of 2,100."

The report suggests that countries with declining populations will have to loosen up policies related to immigration. And, in what could only be described as a side comment with massive Dystopian implications, Axios suggests that we could also hire robot helpers.

Needless to say, that's the part that caught my eye.

What does this mean? My mind started to race to a possible future scenario.

I'm nowhere near retirement age, so it's not exactly on the top of my mind, but maybe it should be. Someday, we might need to "employ" a robot worker, one that works almost like a car we drive (and pay for on a monthly installment loan) to work for us--say, clean a warehouse, deliver packages, or flip burgers.

It's not out of the realm of possibility to think that this robot helper would somehow fund our retirement and eventual stay in a nursing home, since the idea of young working adults and middle age workers paying for this will not be quite so feasible as it is today. You may already know about a concept called "elderly waiver" which is part of Medicaid. In my state, it's a way to pay for elderly care for anyone over 65 without the funds for nursing care.

You might say there won't be a direct link between a robot helper and your own elderly care, but that assumes the programs like elderly waiver will still exist, or that the younger workers will be more than happy to support elderly people. Reports about a robot workforce always come with caveats--that it will take time, that not all jobs will be replaced, that the replaced workers will find other jobs (say, as robot technicians). Those worried about a robot apocalypse are much more direct--that robot workers will put humans out of work and poverty will increase, that robots will assume control lof society.

I tend to take a more level-headed view. Robot workers are coming, automation will continue to improve in every area of life, from healthcare to package deliveries to accounting. The question to ask isn't "Will robots replace humans?" it's "How will we make that work?" in a way that makes sense. My view is that robot workers could be "employed" in the same way we lease a car or pay for a mortgage--it will become an everyday fact of life. We shall see.

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