People keep grabbing headlines, and probably clicks, with scare stories projecting the end of life as we know it because the robots (and automation) are coming to take away all the jobs.
I have written on this topic a few times:
- Manufacturing jobs on Labor Day
- Automation Jobs Non-Sequitur
- Promote Fair Competition
- Automation v Jobs Podcast
This is an important topic–but not for idle speculation.
I believe people were made to work. It is in our nature. I understand that people exist who retired early, play a little golf, sit around, maybe attend a committee meeting a month. Given reasonably good health, sitting around is something I cannot fathom.
And you need money to live. We may be living in the first society where people have been guaranteed an income through pensions (distinct from savings) and can afford not to work.
It is the urge to be useful, the urge to create, and the urge to feed our families and ourselves that keeps most of us going.
Hence the fear that robots and automation will take all the jobs and most people will be left in poverty.
The people who really do need to pay attention to these trends are those creative types at the forefront of technology. They are creating robots that help people. This product development effort recognizes a key demographic trend–that the population of the US and Western Europe (probably also China) is increasingly aged.
We are facing a shortage of workers in the future, not a surplus. People such as Rodney Brooks and his Baxter robot are forging a new frontier in human assistants. Even in the industrial side ABB and Fanuc (among others I’m sure) are unveiling “cooperative” robots who can work side-by-side with humans no cages required to accomplish work.
Recently Moira Gunn of Tech Nation NPR show and podcast interviewed New York Times journalist John Markoff about his book “Machines of Loving Grace.”
So often New York Times journalists get technology and manufacturing wrong. I have not read the book (yet), but Markoff takes a balanced and reasonable approach in his interview. He’s not trying to make money scaring people. He is actually explaining what is really coming.
We’ll have people. We’ll have robots. We’ll have jobs to do and problems to solve. Life will go on.