Do robots give us more free time, or do they take our jobs away? Debate on Work 4.0

At a public debate at the New Museum Biel, NRP 77 researcher Sarah Dégallier-Rochat addressed the deployment of collaborative robots in the working world of the future.

Besides research, engaging in dialogue with the public is also one of the objectives of a National Research Programme. It was in this spirit that the leader of NRP 77 project “How collaborations between human beings and machines can be optimised”, Sarah Dégallier-Rochat from Bern University of Applied Sciences, took part in a public debate at the start of her project

The event, titled “Work 4.0: Do robots give us more free time, or do they take our jobs away?” was part of the Biel Festival’s “Night of a Thousand Questions”, which was live-streamed due to Covid measures. The aim was, from a comparative perspective, to address questions raised by two exhibitions staged by the New Museum Biel (NMB), “Hello, Robot” and “Biel/Bienne 4.0”:

  • How does digitisation affect the world of work?
  • What role will robots play in our working lives in the future?
  • Do robots give us more free time, or do they take our jobs away?

During the debate, Dégallier-Rochat also voiced her views on how robots will influence our work. She saw the trend as not going in the direction of robots replacing humans, but of them working with humans. Experts refer to collaborative robots. These are robots with sensors that can recognise unexpected contact, for instance with a human, and immediately halt. Such robots can work simultaneously or in parallel with humans on the same task. One part of the tasks will be performed by a human, another by the robot. “Collaborative robots are less efficient than conventional robots,” remarks Dégallier-Rochat, “but they are more flexible and better at multitasking.”

Also taking part in the discussion besides Dégallier-Rochat were Bernat Palou, Director of the Association for Community Research of Microtechnical Means of Production (ARCM), Nada Endrissat, ergonomist and organisational scientist from the New Work Institute at Bern University of Applied Sciences , as well as Beat Baumann, an economist with the Unia union.

Sarah Dégallier-Rochat’s complete input as well as a summary of the debate can be found in this recapitulation of the principal theses and positions.

Exhibition: Hello, RobotExternal Link Icon

Exhibition: “Biel/Bienne 4.0. Revolutions at work from 1800”External Link Icon

Recapitulation of principal theses and positionsExternal Link Icon