Just as airplanes can fly without pilots on board, ships can navigate perfectly well without humans on deck. When it comes to large scale shipping, in fact, sailing without a crew can have distinct advantages. Crews are expensive. They require living quarters, heat and plumbing, and they also need to be fed and paid. Staffing ships adds significantly to their cost. That's why companies like Rolls-Royce are now seriously investigating remotely piloted crewless cargo ships. The European Union has granted the company almost $5 million to see if unmanned ships would benefit the environment and lead to less crowding around ports. Unsurprisingly, the 600,000 ship workers in the International Transport Workers’ Federation are not keen on this idea, but if past trends and innovations are a guide, those who cling to the old way of doing things are will be fighting a losing battle. We have just entered the beginning of the end of centuries of merchant seafaring tradition.