Will robots replace historians? That’s the provocative and kind of funny title of an article in a history magazine. Provocative because the notion seems absurd. Or does it?
Funny because the likely answer of most people would be along the lines of: ‘who cares!’
There are certainly bigger things to worry about than robots taking over the writing of history.
Replace them all! Who would notice?
That’s one way of looking at it. Of course there are others. Perhaps someone will write a letter to the editor, denouncing our offhand dismissal of the value of history and the people who study and write about it.
But it is still funny that anyone would think the threat of robots to historians is even worth mentioning . What isn’t funny is how many manufacturing jobs are likely to disappear, given the advances in robot technology. It’s in the news every week, if not more often. Whole classes of employment have already been turned over to machines. Even vaster numbers are likely to go under in coming decades. We’ve already written in this space about the burger flipper robots showing up in some fast-food joint in California.
So if robots end up doing most of the work, what will be left for humans? Designing and building robots? But wait a minute, what’s to stop robots from doing that too? Not much. It’s been suggested the work of bank clerks could easily be handled by machines. It’s probably not much of a leap from there to historians. Teachers? Not sure about that one. Mind you, if there are no jobs to be had at the end of the education process, what would be the point of learning all that stuff? Kids have been asking that question for decades anyway.
We’ll probably find something to keep ourselves busy. Likely it won’t include newspaper reporting. But you never know….