Because they already do.
Farhad Manjoo is concerned about being by replaced by a robot:
Artificial intelligence machines are getting so good, so quickly, that they’re poised to replace humans across a wide range of industries. In the next decade, we’ll see machines barge into areas of the economy that we’d never suspected possible—they’ll be diagnosing your diseases, dispensing your medicine, handling your lawsuits, making fundamental scientific discoveries, and even writing stories just like this one. Economic theory holds that as these industries are revolutionized by technology, prices for their services will decline, and society as a whole will benefit. As I conducted my research, I found this argument convincing—robotic lawyers, for instance, will bring cheap legal services to the masses who can’t afford lawyers today. But there’s a dark side, too: Imagine you’ve spent three years in law school, two more years clerking, and the last decade trying to make partner—and now here comes a machine that can do much of your $400-per-hour job faster, and for a fraction of the cost. What do you do now?
…So if computers have already come for middle-skilled workers, and if low-skilled workers aren’t an attractive enough target, who’s left? That’s right: Professionals—people whose jobs required years of schooling, and who, consequently, make a lot of money doing them. As someone who is fascinated with technology, the stuff I found in my investigation of robots and the workforce tickled me. I got to see a room-size pill-dispensing robot, machines that can find cervical cancer on pap-smear slides, and even servers than can write news stories. As someone who likes his job (and his paycheck), what I saw terrified me.
I, for one, welcome our robotic overlords.
Actually, I’m not worried about this. Why?
Because, in genomics anyway, the robots are already here:
Robots and other high-throughput systems are faster, more reliable, and don’t get bored. These tools would allow data production–and thus, biological discovery–to occur at a qualitatively greater scale (e.g., genomics). This would also, I think, decrease the need for graduate students and post-docs as cheap labor.
Obviously, some areas of biology and certain kinds of experiments aren’t amenable to robotics or or high-throughput methods. But the more we can incorporate these methods, the more time we would have to spend on these ‘unmechanizable’ activities. It would also increase the future job prospects of Ph.Ds. How? Training would focus not on technique (although one should have good technique), but on analysis.
Now, what actually excites me is the bot that writes sports stories. I wonder if it can write science papers too….