According to James Cameron's Terminator franchise, 19 years ago to the day (August 29 1997), the computer system Skynet became sentient and triggered the nuclear holocaust known as Judgement Day. Two decades on, we're thankfully still some way from computers having the technological know-how to wipe out humanity unaided.
As you may be able to tell, I love science fiction! It's fascinating to me that what seemed like science fiction 20 years ago is very much science fact, today. And while people have lost jobs to machines for decades - automation is nothing new! It never fails to surprise me when I read about where the rise of the machines may happen next and the potential effect on some businesses…
How sure are you that this wasn't written by a computer? The Turing test, developed by English computer scientist Alan Turing in 1950, tests a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
Narrative Science's Quill is an advanced natural language generation platform that can turn confusing data into easy to read summaries. Another is Automated Insights' Wordsmith. According to a report in the U.K newspaper The Guardian, a blind study carried out in 2015 by a Swedish media professor asked readers to compare sports reports written by computers and humans. Though those written by people were found to be a touch more accessible and enjoyable, the computer-generated copy was felt to be slightly more informative and trustworthy. The writing's on the wall, guys!
The driverless car once seemed confined to the realm of The Jetsons, but they're coming to a road near you (the car - not George, Jane and co.). According to Wikipedia, four U.S. states have already passed legislation allowing driverless cars: Nevada, Florida, California and Michigan.
With Google hoping to make their own self-driving car available to the public by around 2020, it can't be too long before taxis and chauffeurs are obsolete. Although how soon all humans are willing to entrust their safety to a robot over a person is another question.
Delivery drivers' days are numbered too. Stock could be automatically loaded in the back of driverless vehicles, delivered and unloaded at the destination - all untouched by human hand. Meanwhile, Amazon has suggested drones may also get in on the delivery act.
Stockroom and factory workers
Amazon already has a team of squat, orange robots scuttling around the factory floor. The robots - apparently 30,000 strong in 13 fulfillment centers - carry stock to a picking area where a person completes the order.
Having the stock come to the person instead of vice versa has saved Amazon thousands of dollars already, and now they're considering ways to fully automate the process, eliminating the need for any human intervention.
At SEW-Eurodrive in Germany, industrial robots choose components and take care of some heavy lifting. While in the Far East, advanced manufacturing technologies and robotics have already seen repetitive manufacturing tasks previously done by employees go to the machine. This happened in a company which supplies innovative tech giants Apple and Samsung.
Bartender, Waiter and Fast Food worker
Fancy a Manhattan? Hollywood has seen many a character unburdening themselves to a sympathetic bartender. But that listening ear may soon be a thing of the past.
Innovations company Makr Shakr are dedicated to robots, food and drink. Their robotic bar system has already been picked up by Royal Caribbean to create a Bionic Bar, where drinkers can select their own cocktail from an onscreen menu and then sit back as a robotic arm does all the prep.
While robot waiters have had a checkered history (restaurants in China who believed robots represented better value than people later fired their robotic workforce for incompetence), Pizza Hut is trialing robot waiters called 'Pepper' in Asia. The robots greet, interact and talk to customers, while taking their food orders.
Prefer burgers? San Francisco's Momentum Machines, a self-confessed 'collective of foodies and engineers' boast they've created a device that can make gourmet burgers from scratch - ground and grilled to order with a variety of seasonings and sauces.
With rumors that the startup has been granted planning permission for a restaurant, a generation of students may soon have to look elsewhere to earn a bit of cash during their studies.
When it comes to the human face of robots, Japan leads the field. The lifelike ChihiraAico greets shoppers in Tokyo's Mitsukoshi department store. Though she's incapable of answering questions, instead going through a pre-recorded script, Nadine, a receptionist at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University can show personality, mood and emotion. And with software similar to Apple's Siri, she can even act like a P.A.
Meanwhile in Nagasaki, the Henn-na hotel employs robot receptionists. Interestingly, the hotel has chosen to buck the trend with one that looks uncannily like a velociraptor!
Doctors and Nurses
You might consider that some jobs would be considered untouchable by cold, robotic hands, but apparently not. The robotic da Vinci Surgical System already allows human surgeons to carry out complex surgery using a minimally-invasive approach with tiny wristed instruments capable of bending and rotating where the human hand can't.
While the da Vinci system is controlled by a human surgeon from a console, new technology in development may soon mean you'll be telling a robot all about your ailments. The aim is to have machines that can diagnose an illness based on the answers to a series of questions, analyze blood tests more accurately than people and even calculate the dosage of medicines. Already, an automated pharmacy in The University of California San Francisco has dispensed more than 350,000 doses of medication without a single error.
In Japan, robots are being tested in a bid to look after Japan's ageing population. 'Robear', a robotic nurse complete with a cute bear face is capable of lifting and carrying a person from a bed to a wheelchair or helping them stand from a sitting position.