From exploring the universe to picking up poo – what 11 year olds say robots will be doing in 50 years’ time

Picking up dog-poo, exploring the universe and being journalists are just some of the roles today’s 11 year olds think robots will be performing in 50 years’ time.

The Girls’ Schools Association posed the question to Year 7 girls (age 11-12) in their schools around the UK and were inundated with imaginative responses and incisive comment.

Taking the place of or helping teachers in the classroom was a popular suggestion, as was helping out with household chores and domestic admin. But top of the list was performing a wide range of humanitarian, life-saving, medical and caring functions.

The top 9 robot functions in 2066
1. Performing humanitarian, life-saving, medical & caring roles
2. Doing jobs outside the home eg driver, journalist, shop assistant
3. Doing household chores – including child care – and domestic admin
4. Replacing or helping teachers and doing your homework for you!
5. Exploring space and difficult terrain
6. Being soldiers, body guards, fire fighters and police
7. Entertaining us
8. Helping us become more eco-friendly
9. Running their own businesses and taking over the world

GSA president, Caroline Jordan says:
“Girls love seeing the practical application of science. Their science learning thrives on understanding how you can use it to help – or hinder – people and society. Questions like this are a great way to stimulate their thinking around philosophy, economics, design and moral issues as well as the science itself.”

The future isn’t all rosy though. Many girls are worried about the impact of robot technology on human health and fitness and others are concerned about the economic impact.
Georgie, from St Francis College (Letchworth), puts it into mundane perspective. She says:

“In the 50s and 60s people thought that electronics would mean less work as they would do everything for us. But that was not the case. They became more work as checking social media or playing games became another thing to do. Therefore, I think that in 50 years, robots will be like housemaids but really they will be more work for us, for example, taking them to get fixed or programming them.”

GSA president Caroline Jordan doesn’t think we should be afraid of robots though. In her new blog for Independent School Parent she writes about how today’s pupils are already building and using robots for all kinds of things. She says:

“The girls we are teaching today will be taking up jobs which don’t exist yet – we have to prepare them for a job marketplace we don’t know and don’t understand… ultimately, robots are tools. We need to empower people to understand how robots work. They are not magic – they are entirely logical and do what they have been programmed to do.”

Performing humanitarian, life-saving, medical & caring roles
Celia from Bolton School Girls’ Division is just one of many who believe robots will be used to help medical procedures such as operations. Madeline and Claudia from Abbot’s Hill School (Hemel Hempstead) think robots will help people speak. They say “You’d type in what you want the robot to say and it will also show your emotion.”

Millie from Cobham Hall (Kent) has heard family stories about earthquakes in China where her parents live. She says: “If the earthquake happened again, and my parents are still alive, they would be too old to run away. A robot could be super quick, run to my parents and they would hide inside. The robot would become a ball to protect them. The robot needs to be very strong so it would not be broken and still be standing after the earthquake.”

Robots will help cure illnesses, perform delicate operations, be pets and companions for older people, feed and shelter the homeless and help people with mental health issues. Florence from Harrogate Ladies’ College says they’ll also be used for printing body parts out of bio-plastic and stem cells to make organs and limbs that can then be transplanted onto people.

‘Robodocs’ will change the world in 2066, according to Amina from Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park (London). Her vision of a travelling robotic doctor-come-paramedic “will keep people safe from infectious diseases because the Robodoc will be equipped with everything and the doctors will be helping from a TV screen. Also it will be full of vaccines, anaesthetics and disinfection to help the ill person. But if the person is having a heart attack he will be immediately transported to hospital. Robodocs can also be used in wars to keep the doctors safe. The glass will be bullet proof and if needed there will be a metal foldable roof. They will open and drop on the amputated person and fix him.”

Nancy from Channing School (London) even thinks robots could step in where IVF fails. She says:
“If a person could not have a child, they could create a robot which had their features and personalities. The human could choose what age they would like the artificial human (TAH) to be. If you don’t like the age your TAH is you could reverse or skip that period in their life. However the robot will carry on growing through your life and, at the average death age, they will shut down forever. If you get annoyed with it you could turn it off. However it could not have its own children or else they may rebel and the human race could be wiped out in a matter of days, due to their extraordinary strength.”

Other roles
Robots will also clear dog poo away. They’ll be shepherds, stunt doubles, cleaners, refuse collectors, fire fighters and bodyguards. Here are some of the other roles Girls’ Schools Association pupils imagine robots performing in 50 years’ time:

The iCar robot
“There will be such a thing as an iCar, like an iPhone or iPad but the car will be controlled by artificial intelligence or a robot of some kind.” (Talia, Channing School, London).

The social media robot
Lucy and Leyla (Abbot’s Hill School, Hemel Hempstead) believe there’ll be robots who can talk and send messages and look after your social media.

The legal robot
“Robots cannot be biased, so they could be Olympic judges or judges in court.” (Eloise, St Martha’s School, Hadley Wood, Herts).

The teacher robot
Talia (Channing School, London) believes that robots will have replaced teachers in 50 years’ time. She says:
“I think they will look like humans on the outside but are a piece of machinery on the inside. They will have built-in feelings for when a child is upset about something, they will also be good at telling off if needed! They will know the answer to EVERYTHING because they will have Google inside their heads. They will also have a very good fashion sense. All the children will look up to them because they will be so kind and friendly. I think they will also have a great sense of humour. Their voice will be tuned to a human voice and they won’t just smile with their mouth, they will also smile with their eyes.”

The homework robot
A robot that can do your homework for you was a popular choice. According to pupils from Withington Girls’ School (Manchester), it has eight arms with a pencil, ruler, pen, paper dispenser, light, calculator, bin and protractor.

The journalist robot
Advice columns will be taken over by robots and they’ll also be used as journalists. Coco (Channing School, London) says “they will be able to ask questions that have been programmed into them depending on which person they come across!”

The space explorer robot
Ria (Manchester High School for Girls) believes that “Robots will be used to do hard tasks humans can’t do; such as travel to distant planets that might be dangerous to humans.”

The downside of robots
Skye (Manchester High School for Girls) is one of many girls who believe robots will make the world lazy. Others are concerned about the economic impact. Alex (Cobham Hall, Kent) foresees robots taking so many jobs away from humans that taxes will have to go higher and higher to fund all the benefits the rest of us will be on. And a small number, like Elizabeth, Millie and Georgia (Abbot’s Hill, Hemel Hempstead) paint an even bleaker picture: “They won’t be doing anything for us – there will be no us.”

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