What is automation? It’s essentially technology in the workforce. And as this technology enters the workforce — as, essentially, employers hire robots — what is the social impact? In an effort to answer some of these questions, I decided to hit the road across a swath of the Midwest. The great American road trip requires a sidekick, right? It’s like Don Quixote had Sancho Panza. Who might be my robot sidekick? So I held auditions and I met some great robots! I met Pepper, who’s articulated 17 ways. It will greet you at the airport. I also met Kuri, a very adorable little robot that doesn’t have any arms, cruises around your house keeping an eye on things, plays media back to you. But none of these wonderful robots really added up yet to a fully fledged human companion. But we know there are jobs that robots can do. We visited the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, a key center for robotics in the country to learn more. There was a very disconcerting robot — the snake robot. It fastened itself like a python around my ankle and started crawling up my leg with its little camera head looking around and examining things in a kind of creepy fashion. But you can see how a snake robot would be pretty awesome at crawling through rubble during a search-and-rescue mission. One place we’re going to see a lot of robots is on the road. Those very important truck driving jobs — at what point are those robots? And what will the people that were driving trucks do for a living? Society has to wrestle with this. Though it may seem like doom and gloom, we can never forget that loads of these thrive as technology in the workplace progresses. The creative pursuits where you’re trying to do something people have never seen before. That’s where machines are absolutely the worst. “To be or not to be, that is the question.” That’s a master’s level nurse. Sitting with a patient, hands on, managing their care is something a human is going to do, not a machine. Potential for automation: 22 percent. Pays on average $28 an hour. And lots of them, 427,000 in America. If you are a person who designs robots or who can work with robots or fix robots, that is a job that is going to prove to be very lucrative in perpetuity. I’m concerned about the American workforce in the face of automation. This future that some people in Silicon Valley are musing about — where we’ve entered the end of work, and we have to just pay people not to work — doesn’t seem like a particularly bright future. I hope we don’t go there. I hope the future that we’re going toward is the capacity of technology to open up new and interesting things for humans to do.