May 4, 2014
A SIMPLE FUNCTION OF PRODUCTIVITY:
Robots Will Take Our Jobs : Three scenarios for how technology will change the workforce. (Niall Firth, 5/04/14, Slate)
But how am I goimng to find any satisfaction in life if the tedious robotic tasks I get paid for are done by a robot while I spend time with my family, friends, neighbors, church and community?Niall Firth: Are robots really taking our jobs?Andrew McAfee: Sure, but there has always been job destruction because of automation and technological progress. The important thing to keep in mind is that there has also always been job creation because of these same forces. Right now, there is a wave of tech hitting the economy and the workforce. The question is: is the balance shifting?NF: How do you see it playing out?AM: Three possible scenarios could happen with this current wave of technology. One is that it is going to hit the economy, and it might take a while to work itself out, but in the end we will reach a happy equilibrium. The Industrial Revolution was great news, eventually, for British workers. Electrification of factories eventually led to a large, stable, and prosperous American middle class. That pattern should give us confidence that we will wind up in another happy equilibrium.NF: What are the other possible scenarios?AM: Scenario two is that we see successive waves: artificial intelligence, automated driving that will impact people who drive for a living, robotics that will impact manufacturing. If scenario two happens, the problem is a bit worse because it will be difficult for the economy to keep adjusting and for workers to keep retraining.Scenario three is that we finally transition into this science-fiction economy, where you just don't need a lot of labor.NF: Do you really think that we'll shift away from having human laborers altogether?AM: I believe that in my lifetime--I'm in my mid-40s--we're going to see that third scenario. We won't see a zero-labor economy, but we're going to head into a labor-light economy. Of course, people like me have been saying some version of that for 200 years. The Luddites, John Maynard Keynes, a lot of people have said it and been wrong. But when I look at the encroachment of digital stuff into the total bundle of skills and abilities that humans have, I think this time it is different.
Posted by Orrin Judd at May 4, 2014 9:00 AM
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