It’s the topic of a much heated debate within the scientific community, political agendas, and amongst every day citizens. There hasn’t been a consensus reached among these scholars and arguers, but that doesn’t stop the discussion from happening.
That discussion, of course, is will robots take our jobs in the future?
It’s not too crazy, in fact, it’s already starting to happen. Look around your local grocery stores and there are automated check-out lines, robots have decimated employment in the automotive industry, and top scientific minds (and the creators of the Terminator franchise) worry that artificial intelligence will one day be the ruination of human society. But, will the robots be coming for tattooers’ jobs next?
The general consensus amongst tattooers is that their jobs are secure in these changing times. While it may be hard to replicate the human-to-human experience between a tattooer and a client, if a robot can efficiently and accurately give a stellar tattoo, who’s to say they won’t send tattoo artists into retirement?
When presented with the possibility of robots taking the job of a tattoo artist, Red Baron Ink’s Grant Lubbock staunchly opposed the idea. “Absolutely not,” Lubbock said, “I don’t think you could ever replace the handcraft of an actual artist and tattooer. I don’t think a robot will ever transition like that...of course there will be a small percentage of people who would get a robot tattoo if it ever happens, but those people are fucking idiots.”
Brooklyn Tattoo’s Willy Paredes doesn’t sound as certain as Lubbock when discussing his job security. “I saw something the other day, it was a machine that was doing just really dope handwriting, it was amazing,” Paredes said. "When I saw that, I was like, ‘Welp, that’s only like 25 years away from being a needle.’”
Twenty-five years seems like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, and how fast technology is advancing, it really isn't. Think about all of the technological advancements we’ve seen over the past 25 years. The invention of the cell phone, smartphones, 3D printing — it’s not that unheard of to assume machines will be able to tattoo skin within the next 25 years. Hell, it might even be sooner than that.
One thing tattoo artists can cling to is the human experience. There are a vast number of variables that need to be considered when tattooing and some artists are skeptical a robot can take them into account. Tattoo artist Adam Suerte explained. “With different parts of the body the swelling is different and people’s skin reacts differently, I think it’ll be a long time before robots will be able to negotiate through all of that.”
He’s not the only one to bring up this point. Moon Sheen Tattoo's artist, Dion, brings up the complications of robots tattooing as well. “There’s too many different factors that you need a human to solve,” he said. “Everyone’s skin is different, parts of the body are different, even the way you have to stretch skin, there’s no way a robot could do that.”
Not everyone is as convinced as these artists. The mere thought of a robot taking their jobs has some artists shaking in their boots. How could you blame them either? Many people surely thought the human experience of a cashier would never go away, but here we are. I’m sure once the sewing machine was invented, some professional seamstresses scoffed at the idea. It’s not a threat to be taken lightly. And not every tattoo artist is taking it lightly...
“I can see it happening, people putting their arms in a tube or something,” an anonymous tattoo artist confided. “Of course, tattoo artists aren’t going to say their jobs are at risk, it’s their job, but I can see it happening.”
Paredes offers some parting wisdom to young tattooers who are worried about the possibility of robots taking over the industry. “If a machine comes along and is really doing that good of a job at tattooing, these young tattoo artists better look out, that’s all I’ll say.”