Will Robots Take our Jobs?

August 31st, 2015

lego-628568_1920Yes, but Sometimes That’s a Good Thing!

More and more concerns are being raised by the potential for “robots” with artificial intelligence (AI) to take jobs now occupied by humans. It’s turning out to be a complex issue. Bottom line: humans will lose jobs to machines, but which ones and what will be the impact are complex questions.

CNN Money reported on a Deloitte study (based on the UK) highlighting specific job categories that have seen significant declines in recent years. Not surprisingly, they are primarily routine-oriented, and the study also showed that non-routine jobs “have exploded.” Jobs such as nursing, teaching, consultants, and others. Furthermore, technological changes tend to complement “cognitive, non-routine tasks.”

Wired magazine also recently published an article, opining that although robots will take some jobs, they will create others, like repairing the robots. On the other hand, Tim Worstall, in a Forbes opinion piece, wrote that robots and technology might not actually create enough new jobs. However, he offered, they would free workers to look for other ways to find a market by satisfying another type of human need. In other words, the robots free humans to undertake more creative endeavors.

Some jobs are probably better done by robots, not just because they can do them better but because the jobs may be too dangerous for humans. A great Boulder example: Stratom, a locally-bred firm that provides robotics-based solutions for military jobs such as detecting and clearing IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and civilian bomb disposal. And Stratom is working on a new robotic technology for quickly and efficiently delivering supplies to troops and for disaster relief. (In fact, Stratom will be featured in an upcoming Boulder Chamber video. Stay tuned.)

Here’s an interesting TED talk on this subject by Andrew McAfee, Co-Director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and a Principal Research Scientist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. In it, he forecasts that the future will look more like today’s science fiction, in which technology will indeed demonstrate more human-like skills. He says it’s great economic news that will promote progress. But it will require us to rethink the world of work and educate people to work in it.


So although some will lose their jobs to robots, maybe they’ll become entrepreneurs.

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