Mt. Vernon Register-News

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December 20, 2012

By 2062, your nurse will be a robot and your shirt will clean itself

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Your clothes will clean themselves too. Engineers in China have developed a titanium dioxide coating that helps cotton shed stains and eliminate odor-producing bacteria. To revive your lucky shirt after a night of poker, you need only step into the sun.

Now if only this technology could be extended to the kitchen sink as well as the laundry room. The housework gap between women and men continues to close, but it hasn't been eliminated yet — the Bureau of Labor Statistics found earlier this year that American women do 2.6 hours of housework per day while men do 2.1 hours. If technology could cut down on the minutes we need to spend on household tasks period, it might be easier to split them equitably, and for partners to spend more time on each other, or on other pursuits. The self-cleaning clothes part, at least, could be a reality by 2022.

Nurse Jackie will be a robot. By 2045, when seniors (60-plus) outnumber the planet's youth (15 and under) for the first time in history, hospitals will use robots to solve chronic staffing issues. Expect to find the new Nightingales lifting patients and pushing food carts. Engineers at Purdue University are thinking even bolder — designing mechanical scrub nurses that respond to hand gestures during surgery.

Though the number of men in nursing professions is increasing, it remains a field dominated by women, as is also the case with home health aides. Just as mechanization (as well as outsourcing) hurt male employment in manufacturing, the rise of robotic nurses could push down employment in a sector where women have long been dominant. It's always fun to think that the future will open up new and exciting employment fields. But it'll make other kinds of jobs obsolete, and women should learn from the decimation of some male-dominated fields as we make our career plans for the future. PM thinks Nurse Jackie will be delivering your post-op meal by 2062.

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