Created By: forgottenlord on July 24, 2012 Last Edited By: forgottenlord on August 24, 2012
Troped

Job Stealing Robot

Robots can do your job... and do it better than you can

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Trope
As technology advances, Robots become more complex and more capable of doing a greater variety of things - at a faster, better and more consistent rate than if a human were to perform the same task. When robots have achieved a level of capability that business owners buy them and replace their human employees, you have a Job Stealing Robot.

The Job Stealing Robot does not need to necessarily be a robot - a piece of software or other type of machine may do the trick. The point is that artificial constructs are being built and are replacing the old workforce.

An application of Technology Marches On and subtrope of Man Versus Machine. Overlaps with Ludd Was Right. When someone fights against the Job Stealing Robot, particularly when using questionable means, you're looking at an Evil Luddite.

Truth in Television: advances in robotics have lead to a lot of manual labor jobs being replaced or consolidated. Whether this is a good thing or not, YMMV


Examples

Advertising
  • Flobot.., just Flobot. No seriously, there's an ad for Progressive insurance where spokeswoman Flo fears she'll be replaced by Flobot (who has since appeared with Flo and others in another ad).

Anime
  • This is a pivotal plot point in Armitage III, due to the high employment rate of robots, on Mars. The human populace objects strongly sometimes violently to this and regularly hold public protests, to denounce robots and demand their jobs back.

Comics
  • A common theme in Judge Dredd stories is citizens struggling to cope with mass unemployment caused by nearly all jobs being performed by robots.

Film
  • I, Robot: Will Smith invokes this when proposing a new slogan for a robotics company: "Shitting on the Little Guy".
  • Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. Bucket gets laid off from his job at a toothpaste factory after the Wonka candy bars contest causes an increase in toothpaste sales, letting the factory buy a machine. He gets a new job later: repairing the machine.
  • According to The Matrix backstory, this is the reason humans started fighting the machines. Artificial Intelligence had evolved to a point where machines became better than humans at everything. Eventually, the humans started discriminating against the machines and kicked them out.
  • In WarGames, the computer is used to replace human commanders in charge of missile silos. Leo McGarry glances significantly at the machine when he's being relieved by it.
  • in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Bill & Ted get killed and replaced by "evil robot us'es" which look exactly like Bill & Ted, but are programmed to be evil in order to destroy Bill & Ted's reputation so they don't become awesome rock stars and turn the world to peace. (Film)

Literature
  • In Feet of Clay, Sgt Colon has a conversation with a wick-dipper who's been made redundant since the candle factory started employing a golem.
  • The Caves of Steel has people becoming unemployed due to robots being introduced by the Spacers. It is revealed to be part of a plan to create large numbers of unemployed people who will become a new wave of settlers.

Live-Action TV
  • The Twilight Zone TOS episode "[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brain_Center_at_Whipple's The Brain Center at Whipple's]]". A callous business executive replaces all of his workers with machines, putting them out of work. At the end he suffers karmic justice as he is replaced by a computer.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Ultimate Computer", Starfleet decides it's a great idea for a computer to replace Kirk as captain of the Enterprise. The computer goes evil, of course.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati:
    • In Yet Another Christmas Carol episode Mr. Carlson is taken to the future, where he has replaced everyone at the station with computers except Herb (the sales manager).
    • When another radio station tries to hire Venus away from WKRP he learns that the entire station is automated; he'd be the Token Human on the air.
  • An episode of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue features a scientist introducing a group of Robot Rangers. This leads to the Lightspeed Rangers out of job...until the robots malfunction.

Newspaper Comics
  • This Hi and Lois strip.
  • What's New? with Phil and Dixie. In Dragon magazine #63 (July 1982) the strip had a robot Phil that was designed to replace the real Phil Foglio on the staff. Phil managed to defeat the robot by shorting him out with water, but then a robot Dixie appeared... Read it here.

Video Games
  • In Portal 2, when exploring Old Aperture underground, you can see posters on the wall from when Aperture Science started using their own employees as test subjects and started using robots to do the humans' work. One of these posters features an employee (called "Karla the Complainer") complaining about her boss being a robot, and it assures readers that robots work harder than you, can do your job better than you, and are all-around better than you.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a slight variation in the form of job stealing cyborgs; one of the main anti-aug camps' arguments boils down to "cyborgs have an unfair advantage in the job market". The counter argument is that cyborgs can do jobs baseline humans couldn't possibly manage. The original Deus Ex also had cyborgs with older augments worried that the nano-tech enhanced protagonist will make them obsolete.

Web Original
  • Red vs. Blue: 479er is clearly feeling very threatened by Delta, but calms down quickly when she discovers that he can't fly.
    • Also, while not replacing her on the team or driving anyone out of the unit, Tex quickly takes Carolina's spot at the top of the Freelancer leaderboard. How much Carolina knew about Tex's artificial nature is not clear.
  • Despair.com mentions this in some of their demotivators:
    • Motivation: If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.
    • Adaptation: The bad news is robots can do your job now. The good news is we're now hiring robot repair technicians. The worse news is we're working on robot-fixing robots--and we do not anticipate any further good news.

Webcomic
  • Inverted in Warbot In Accounting: the titular warbot is a refrigerator-sized hunk of metal with a single crushing claw, meaning he is stunningly bad at typing, handling delicate objects, etc.
  • Meta Inversion: The Comic Strip Robotman became Robotman and Monty, and then finally just Monty when Robotman was written out.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: Mr. Burns has twice tried to replace all the workers at SNPP with robots. The first time is during a strike and the robots run amok. The second time Burns fires everyone (except Homer) and replace them with robots, which eventually...run amok. This time the unemployed and underemployed former SNPP workers come to his rescue, and he rehires them all.
    • In another Simpsons Stu & Marty (the radio DJs) are threatened to be replaced by a wisecracking computer if they don't make good on the promise of an elephant for Bart.
  • An episode of The Lampies has a robot brought in to do everyone inside the lamps' jobs (including counting down the precise time to light up time and then turning on the lamps). He is soon taken out of commission after he activates the sprinklers and fries himself.
  • There's Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi when robots replaced Ami and Yumi as rockstars..thankfully, they get their positions back.

Other There's a joke about a guy who's laid off, as his boss tells him they've just bought a new robot that does everything he does, but better. The guy goes home and tells his wife... who goes and buys the same robot.

Real Life
  • This trope is contradicted by the "Luddite fallacy"; Even though a machine can do more work than a person, it doesn't mean that the company will employ less people - instead, the company may just produce more product for the same number of employees (of course, this still puts artisans out of a job in favour of technicians).
    "If the Luddite fallacy were true we would all be out of work because productivity has been increasing for two centuries."
    --Alex Tabarrok, Economist
  • Walt Disney Studios was in financial straits after Sleeping Beauty didn't make its cost back, so Ub Iwerks invented the xerox process to eliminate hand-inking. Not good for you if you worked in the Disney inking department.
  • When Steven Spielberg started on Jurassic Park, he hired Tippett Studio to provide stop-motion effects for the film. However, Spielberg later saw a test with CGI dinosaurs and was so impressed with how realistic they looked that he decided to use CGI instead of stop-motion. Ultimately subverted as Tippett Studio's expertise at animating dinosaurs was still valuable and so a system was created where their stop-motion experience could be applied to the CGI models. Tippett Studio has specialized in CGI ever since.
Community Feedback Replies: 50
  • July 24, 2012
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • The Twilight Zone TOS episode "The Brain Center at Whipple's". A callous business executive replaces all of his workers with machines, putting them out of work. At the end he suffers karmic justice as he is replaced by a computer.
  • July 24, 2012
    Arivne
    Related to Evil Luddite.
  • July 24, 2012
    bigmanjango
    Comics
    • A common theme in Judge Dredd stories is citizens struggling to cope with mass unemployment caused by nearly all jobs being performed by robots.
  • July 24, 2012
    Omeganian
    The Caves Of Steel has people becoming unemployed due to robots being introduced by the Spacers. It is revealed to be part of a plan to create large numbers of unemployed people who will become a new wave of settlers.
  • July 24, 2012
    Bisected8
    • Also note that in Real Life, this is contradicted by the "Luddite fallacy"; Even though a machine can do more work than a person, it's far more logical for a business owner to employ the same number of people to run so many machines and increase productivity rather than downsize (of course, this still puts artisans out of a job in favour of technicians).
      "If the Luddite fallacy were true we would all be out of work because productivity has been increasing for two centuries."
      --Alex Tabarrok, Economist
  • July 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • The Simpsons: Mr. Burns has twice tried to replace all the workers at SNPP with robots. The first time is during a strike and the robots run amok. The second time Burns fires everyone (except Homer) and replace them with robots, which eventually...run amok. This time the unemployed and underemployed former SNPP workers come to his rescue, and he rehires them all.
  • July 24, 2012
    DaibhidC
    • In Feet Of Clay, Sgt Colon has a conversation with a wick-dipper who's been made redundant since the candle factory started employing a golem.
  • July 24, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Added a few of these and one more of my own. Will get the rest later Done

    Also, I recall a movie with a kid protagonist who's father made pencils, but got replaced by a machine and in the end, ended up operating the machine. Can anyone remember the title?
  • July 24, 2012
    Hello999
    In the Star Trek The Original Series episode "The Ultimate Computer", Starfleet decides it's a great idea for a computer to replace Kirk as captain of the Enterprise. The computer goes evil, of course.
  • July 24, 2012
    Hello999
    • A couple real life Hollywood examples:
      • Walt Disney Studios was in financial straits after Sleeping Beauty didn't make its cost back, so Ub Iwerks invented the xerox process to eliminate hand-inking. Not good for you if you worked in the Disney inking department.
      • A subversion: When Steven Spielberg started on Jurassic Park, he hired Tippett Studio to provide stop-motion effects for the film. However, Spielberg later saw a test with CGI dinosaurs and was so impressed with how realistic they looked that he decided to use CGI instead of stop-motion. However, Tippett Studio's expertise at animating dinosaurs was still valuable and so a system was created where their stop-motion experience could be applied to the CGI models. Tippett Studio has specialized in CGI ever since.
  • July 24, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    in Tim Burton's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Mr. Bucket gets laid off from his job at a toothpaste factory after the Wonka candy bars contest causes an increase in toothpaste sales, letting the factory buy a machine. He gets a new job later: repairing the machine.
  • July 24, 2012
    ChunkyDaddy
    • According to The Matrix backstory, this is the reason humans started fighting the machines. Artificial Intelligence had evolved to a point where machines became better than humans at everything. Eventually, the humans started discriminating against the machines and kicked them out.
  • July 24, 2012
    forgottenlord
    BTW: Could someone suggest some Categories for this to be include if/when it gets launched?
  • July 24, 2012
    Bisected8
    Some of these, perhaps; Tropes On Science And Unscience (duh), Robot Roll Call (since it's a type of robot), Sour Grapes Tropes (having your job taken by a machine is baaaaaaad) and maybe Speculative Fiction Tropes (since this tends to crop up in sci-fi).

    BTW, someone who fights against this trope doesn't have to be an Evil Luddite, since they might be (portrayed as) in the right (thus lacking the "evil" part).
  • July 24, 2012
    forgottenlord
    I thought of that when I wrote that line, but the Evil Luddite page didn't seem to make that distinction but rather indicated that they tend to be portrayed as bad. As such, I felt the trope represented it from a neutral perspective while the name was more of an acknowledgment of the standard characterization. I'm not convinced though and I can't think of an obviously better way to word it....at least not without getting too wordy.
  • July 24, 2012
    Bisected8
    What about replacing "they're" with "they can overlap with"?

    Also, Evil Luddite's description provides links to tropes where Luddites are protrayed as right (Ludd Was Right being the most obvious).
  • July 24, 2012
    forgottenlord
    I put in a comment about overlapping with Ludd Was Right and a note about Technology Marches On. Also reworded the Evil Luddite. Thoughts?
  • July 24, 2012
    Bisected8
    That looks better.
  • July 24, 2012
    MiinU

    Anime

    • This is a pivotal plot point in Armitage III, due to the high employment rate of robots, on Mars. The human populace objects strongly sometimes violently to this and regularly hold public protests, to denounce robots and demand their jobs back.
  • July 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • In another Simpsons Stu & Marty (the radio DJs) are threatened to be replaced by a wisecracking computer if they don't make good on the promise of an elephant for Bart.
    • WKRP In Cincinnati:
      • In Yet Another Christmas Carol episode Mr. Carlson is taken to the future, where he has replaced everyone at the station with computers except Herb (the sales manager).
      • When another radio station tries to hire Venus away from WKRP he learns that the entire station is automated; he'd be the Token Human on the air.
  • July 25, 2012
    triassicranger
    Western Animation

    An episode of The Lampies has a robot brought in to do everyone inside the lamps' jobs (including counting down the precise time to light up time and then turning on the lamps). He is soon taken out of commission after he activates the sprinklers and fries himself.
  • July 25, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Please include the general area when giving examples. I'd never heard of WKRP in Cincinnati and being right next to the Simpsons reference, I initially thought it was Western Animation
  • July 25, 2012
    Alvin
    Flobot.., just Flobot. No seriously, under Advertising, there's an ad for Progressive insurance where spokeswoman Flo fears she'll be replaced by Flobot (who has since appeared with Flo and others in another ad).
  • July 25, 2012
    Chabal2
    Inverted in Warbot In Accounting: the titular warbot is a refrigerator-sized hunk of metal with a single crushing claw, meaning he is stunningly bad at typing, handling delicate objects, etc.
  • July 25, 2012
    FalconPain
    We may need to cross-reference Man Versus Machine, which is the closest preexisting trope I can find and may contain examples that belong here. (At least once "The John Henry" was cut.)
  • July 25, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Is it a an overlap or subtrope of Man Versus Machine?
  • July 26, 2012
    Prfnoff
    I would rather call this Replaced By A Machine, because the general concept need not involve robots; it occurs, for instance, in Elmer Rice's play The Adding Machine, where white-collar slave Mr. Zero, hoping for a raise or promotion after twenty-five years of employment, is instead replaced by a machine that will do his job more efficiently.

    In I Robot, most of the later stories taking place in space because organized labor ban robots from being used on Earth from fear of competition. However, robots eventually develop to the point that telling them apart from humans is impossible.
  • July 26, 2012
    forgottenlord
    I prefer the existing title just because it seems snappier, but I'll make a note that they need not be robots
  • July 26, 2012
    Prfnoff
    ^I think the description needs more reworking than that. The Example As A Thesis is more colorful than it needs to be.
  • July 27, 2012
    forgottenlord
    I dropped the Example As A Thesis. What I've got right now doesn't feel right - I'll have to work on it more later. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    The old Example, for posterity:

    So you have a job. A good job - pays well, great benefits, and you'll stay with it for the rest of your life. And your kids will work there for their entire lives.

    Until the owners bring in this strange device. And for no pay, no breaks, and no time off, it starts doing the job of 5 of your fellow employees - possibly even better than they can do. Soon more devices are brought in and more employees are let go and you're just counting the days until it's your turn to be replaced. You've met the Job Stealing Robot.

  • July 28, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Bump
  • July 29, 2012
    NESBoy
    This Hi And Lois strip.
  • July 29, 2012
    NimmerStill
    For the Matrix example, is that really explained in the movies? I don't remember it. Or is it All There In The Manual?
  • July 30, 2012
    Dawnwing
    Video Game:
    • In Portal 2, when exploring Old Aperture underground, you can see posters on the wall from when Aperture Science started using their own employees as test subjects and started using robots to do the humans' work. One of these posters features an employee (called "Karla the Complainer") complaining about her boss being a robot, and it assures readers that robots work harder than you, can do your job better than you, and are all-around better than you.
  • July 30, 2012
    Bisected8
    • Deus Ex Human Revolution has a slight variation in the form of job stealing cyborgs; one of the main anti-aug camps' arguments boils down to "cyborgs have an unfair advantage in the job market". The counter argument is that cyborgs can do jobs baseline humans couldn't possibly manage. The original Deus Ex also had cyborgs with older augments worried that the nano-tech enhanced protagonist will make them obsolete.
  • July 30, 2012
    forgottenlord
    @Nimmer Still - I'm assuming it's in the Animatrix which details large portions of the backstory.
  • July 30, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^Then it should go under Anime, and maybe get an All There In The Manual tag in the Film section.
  • July 30, 2012
    Bisected8
    The Animatrix isn't anime though, is it?
  • July 30, 2012
    forgottenlord
    I thought of that, but I'm not prepared to make that change unless it's confirmed as being in the Animatrix. Until then, the primary work is still the trilogy and the example was submitted in relation to the trilogy so I'm leaving it in the film section. Really, I don't know enough to say one way or another.
  • July 30, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    The Animatrix is a joint American-Japanese production that is also technically a film. Whee.
  • July 30, 2012
    NimmerStill
    I said anime because that's how it's listed in TV Tropes. I got no opinion beyond that.

    Pending actually finding the source, I think the Matrix entry should get an All There In The Manual tag, because I'm pretty sure it's not explained in the films.
  • July 30, 2012
    forgottenlord
    Change has been made and all examples up to this point have been added

    I've also hit a road block with that first paragraph - it is horribly dry. Any and all suggestions would be welcome at this point.
  • August 1, 2012
    Chabal2
    There's a joke about a guy who's laid off, as his boss tells him they've just bought a new robot that does everything he does, but better. The guy goes home and tells his wife... who goes and buys the same robot.
  • August 1, 2012
    MsCC93
    There's Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi when robots replaced Ami and Yumi as rockstars..thankfully, they get their positions back.
  • August 2, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Would this count?
    • in Bill And Teds Bogus Journey Bill & Ted get killed and replaced by "evil robot us'es" which look exactly like Bill & Ted, but are programmed to be evil in order to destroy Bill & Ted's reputation so they don't become awesome rock stars and turn the world to peace. (Film)
  • August 2, 2012
    triassicranger
    Live Action Television

    An episode of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue features a scientist introducing a group of Robot Rangers. This leads to the Lightspeed Rangers out of job...until the robots malfunction.
  • August 3, 2012
    Arivne
    Comic Strip
    • Whats New With Phil And Dixie. In Dragon magazine #63 (July 1982) the strip had a robot Phil that was designed to replace the real Phil Foglio on the staff. Phil managed to defeat the robot by shorting him out with water, but then a robot Dixie appeared... Read it here.
  • August 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Meta Inversion: The Comic Strip Robotman became Robotman And Monty, and then finally just Monty when Robotman was written out.
  • August 7, 2012
    forgottenlord
    All examples to this point have been added
  • August 24, 2012
    forgottenlord
    bump
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