Jared Bernstein is out with a great piece on his blog about whether robots will or will not steal all our jobs. He provides this super-short summary of the main strands in this argument:
As the summary implies, it is the "anti" side (no, robots won't take all our jobs) that is on firmer ground empirically and historically in this debate. That is exactly the case I made in a recent Vox article on the future of jobs.Pro: Automation is killing jobs! The robots are coming!
Bernstein develops a very important point in the remainder of his blog post that he summarizes as: "the robots are here, they’ve been here all along, and they’re not just substitutes that replace workers; they’re also complements that work with them." (emphasis added) He goes on to say:
In the earlier research, two analysts from Oxford University (Frey and Osborne) looked at the tasks done by workers in hundreds of US jobs, like number-crunching by accountants or selling clothes in retail outlets. They found that 47 percent of jobs had a high likelihood of being replaced by automation within a decade or two. Scary, right?
In other words, the robot thing is not a zero-one situation, as in what you do at work is either totally automate-able or totally un-automate-able. For many workers, robots, AI, and other labor-saving technologies will be complementary to their work, boosting “throughput” in retail (“stack ‘em high and let ‘em fly”) and assembly-line work, efficiency in auto-maintenance, accuracy in accounting, etc., but not fully replacing human interactions. Moreover, this has been going on forever in one form or another as machines enter the workforce, and its one reason why productivity almost always–even now–increases year after year.
So stop panicking about the rise of the robots. As Rick Blaine says to Captain Renault at the end of Casablanca, this could "be the beginning of a beautiful friendship".Unquestionably, the robots are going to keep coming. Some will replace jobs, some will create new sectors that add jobs, and some may even turn out to be, if not our besties, then at least helpful in improving the speed and quality of our output.