What's not to like about workplace robots?

The robot is the world's first-ever functioning bionic man made of prosthetic parts and artificial organ implants. Credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

A couple of days ago I met a robot called Baxter. He demonstrated impressive skills in arranging and packing golf balls then passed me a bottle of water to drink. What is not to like about such a useful and friendly piece of technology?

The problem is there may be thousands of versions of Baxter being introduced into workplaces across the UK.

The process has already begun but it will accelerate rapidly over the next 10 to 20 years. Robots, computers and smart technology will change the way we work and do business, they will take over thousands of jobs that are today being done by human beings.

The question is: Are Baxter and his mates our friends? Or do they threaten our livelihoods and the future employment prospects of our children?

In Tonight: Man Versus Machines we looked into the future. Expert after expert told us to expect change on a scale that hasn't been experienced since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Will it be change for the good?

The server room during the grand opening of Hewlett-Packard's Executive Briefing Center in Palo Alto. Credit: REUTERS/Stephen Lam

We heard from companies like Barclays who are determined to be at the forefront of the new business world. They say it can only be good for customers although modernisation will mean more machines and less workers.

We met small company owners who said clever use of technology would actually safeguard jobs. We also talked to workers who have already lost their jobs to machines, like the 40-year veterans from Cadburys who have seen the creme egg production line taken over by robots.

Could waiters and waitresses be under threat by robots? Credit: REUTERS/Robert Pratta

Who will be next? Tonight asked a team of academics at Oxford University to calculate which jobs robots and machines would be capable of doing in the future. When we revealed their findings workers as varied as bankers and waitresses received an unpleasant shock.

See the results and an assessment of the challenges posed by the rapidly changing workplace on Tonight: Man Versus Machines - ITV at 7:30pm