Robots: Economics

Luddite_1812Those guys swinging the sledgehammers are Luddites – English artisans 1811-1817 who protested by destroying Industrial Revolution machines that were in turn destroying their jobs via automation.  You can guess who won that conflict as “Luddite” today is a pejorative term for anyone who naively opposes progress and innovation.

Robotics, along with Machine Learning, are two major areas of technological innovation that are eliminating a number of jobs that humans used to perform.  The intersection between automation and economics has become a big issue of late and there are some good websites that track this.

Some jobs that have been or are slated to replace humans with intelligent machines are:

– Service Industries (eg ATMs, Fast Food)

– Sales and Retail (eg cashiers, stock pickers)

– Office and Administration Support (eg help desk, data entry)

– Farming, Fishing, Forestry (eg crop picking, planting, watering)

– Construction, Extraction (eg mining)

– Installation, Maintenance, Repair

– Manufacturing (eg assembly line)

– Transportation (eg self-driving Trucks, Buses and Taxis)

Although technology started eliminating jobs at the low-skill end of job market, even more high-end jobs are being augmented or entirely replaced with automation technology like financial/sports reporting, paralegal/lawyer research, and even programmers.

In fact, researchers at Oxford University in England analyzed 702 jobs in the US and found that 47 percent were at risk to partial or complete automation based upon the content, structure and pattern of each job and how well technology can replicate or improve upon human performance.  Here is a video that describes some of the bleaker possible outlooks:

Hopefully, rapid automation of much of the job market will create new jobs.  The optimistic hope is that these jobs will be more interesting and well-paying than the jobs lost.  The pessimistic fear is that there will not be enough high-end new jobs to compensate for all the low-end jobs lost and the humans displaced by automation at the low-end will not have the skills to do the new high-end jobs created.  Here is a more positive outlook on this:

In either case this is just another reason to get your STEM on.  Even if you don’t intend to become a Scientist or Engineer, the skills you learn will be valuable in the evolving new job market.


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