| illustration by Charles Marsh |
A couple of stories caught my attention recently. You may have seen the first one. If not, brace yourself. There’s currently a dangerous shortage of clowns. Sadly, according to the World Clown Association, the world’s largest trade group for these funsters, membership has dropped from 3,500 in 2004 to around 2,500 currently.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Must have been a one-car accident. Actually, the truth is probably worse. Most of them got elected to Congress.
Now it seems to me that becoming a clown would be relatively easy, but that is definitely not the case. It’s almost impossible to get into Ringling Bros. Clown College. Out of 531 applicants last year, only 14 were chosen to attend. It’s harder to get into than med school. Which brings me to my second story. Apparently, there’s a shortage of doctors too. At least there’s gonna be. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States faces a shortage of more than 91,000 physicians by the year 2020. That number is expected to grow to 130,000 by 2025. So why the shortages? I think it has to do with the fact that there aren’t as many young people these days that are willing to dedicate themselves to the stringent training, the hectic work schedule, and the many years it takes just to perfect your skills. And I’m talking about the clowns. Besides, where do you find a pair of size 32 yellow wingtips?
However, the medical profession may have an answer. Robots. In fact, robots are already caring for elderly patients, helping with physical therapy and even performing surgery. Robots have come a long way since they were first invented. Engineers originally created these machines with one purpose in mind. To perform services that normal human beings were incapable of doing. For instance, going on a date with an engineer. However, even the robots flat refused to go to a Star Trek convention. But while the engineers were begging them to reconsider, they discovered many other tasks robots were capable of performing. Turns out they could do almost anything, except, of course, have a relationship with an engineer.
Nowadays robotic intelligence is advancing so fast that one expert is even predicting that robots will emerge as their own species by 2040. Pretty scary. And don’t be surprised if a robot becomes your primary care physician in a couple of years. This would make access to a healthcare professional much easier, although I don’t think many men would be looking forward to their yearly physical exams. Think about it. Those cold metallic fingers when you have to turn your head and cough. However, there is one positive. Not even the most sophisticated robot has the manual dexterity to slip on a pair of rubber gloves, so at least we’d be able to avoid that other unpleasant procedure.
But seriously, robotics technology is revolutionizing the medical profession. Cyberknife robotic systems are performing procedures that were unimaginable just a few years ago. It provides a non-invasive alternative for the treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors anywhere in the body. It’s resulted in faster recovery rates and lower costs for the patients. But robots are also entering other sectors of the healthcare industry. Our aging population is growing, which has also created a nursing shortage. But new mobile robots are designed to help the elderly cope with day-to-day activities at home rather than assisted living facilities. And robot nurses can patiently listen while they rant about democrats, as well as address the envelopes for those $1 birthday checks they send to their grandchildren.
But I don’t think robots could ever replace all the clowns. For starters, 25 robots aren’t nimble enough to get out of one of those little cars. I tried to get out of a Mini Cooper the other day. It looked like a giraffe giving birth. So I don’t think the clown industry will ever be in danger. But in the future, real doctors may be relegated to just working one day a week. That’ll be the Thursdays the robots usually play golf.