Will Robots Cause Job Scarcity?

Robots have been steadily moving up the corporate ladder since artificial intelligence and deep learning became established realms of computing technology. Now the skills that can be achieved by a machine have expanded to an unprecedented rate, and the more complex robots become the more obvious the room for growth. Some people see a lot of hope in this development; with the help of robots, human knowledge may be able to be expanded at a faster rate than ever before. On the other hand, if robots are poised to take over repetitive jobs like those in the service industry and in factories, we may well be on precipice of a major decline in job availability.

machien learingTake one robot, the multi-tasker bot from Momentum Machines, for example. This robot can flip a gourmet hamburger in ten seconds and could potentially replace an entire McDonalds crew. Universal Robots has created a manufacturing device that can solder, paint, screw, glue, and grasp objects, plus it can build new parts for itself on the fly when they wear out. Google recently was awarded a patent to start building worker robots that allegedly would have “personalities.”

According to Martin Ford, author of the book Rise of the Robots, AI and robotics will soon overhaul our economy, and the poorest workers with the most blue-collar jobs may be the ones to pay for it. Ford isn’t the only scholar to fear the worst for our economy in response to automation; other economists like Andrew McAfee, author of (The Second Machine Age) have mostly sided with Ford’s fear.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Oxford University, approximately 47 percent of U.K. jobs could be automated within the next two decades. Even if the study leans too much towards a doomsday prediction, even a result with half the amount of job loss would ultimately be devastating to our economy.

Ford believes that a robot job takeover could cause a major revolt among workers followed by a radically new economic state what enables humans to live more productive and entrepreneurial lives that allow them to rely on guaranteed incomes generated by machines.

rubotWhile this kind of socialized government that relies on robot helpers seems like more of a crackpot theory or science fiction premise than an academic prediction, it does take into consideration important aspects of what could be a major approaching conflict. There are already a lot of examples of computers, machines, robots and algorithms becoming capable of performing routine and repetitive jobs. There are a fair amount of jobs that are fundamentally predictable, and they’re not all just low-skill jobs. Anyone from lawyers to factory workers might find that at least the most rudimentary versions of their jobs are possibly performed by computers.

Another important aspect of this economic change is that the technology in question is not like technology that was developed before this time in a fundamental way: when agricultural technology was improved, it used to only affect that industry. But information technology and machine learning can affect and be implemented by all industries.


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