2017 Predictions: The Rise of the Robots

“The Three Laws of Robotics:
1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
2: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;
3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Isaac Asimov, I, Robot

42-18778056I have, upon occasion, hazarded a few guesses about the future of our world such as this piece in 2010: Top Ten things that should have Disappeared This Decade.

So when a friend of mine recently started this conversation, I wanted to share it with my group of family/friends. Much to the dismay of his readers, he notes that “Automation and robotics will be presenting huge challenges to social and political structures during the coming decades.” I wonder if there is a growing fear that there will not be enough work for the middle class because of globalization and automation. Here is some grist for your mill; discuss.

Automation will, “in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world,” Hawking wrote. “The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.”

He frames this economic anxiety as a reason for the rise in right-wing, populist politics in the West: “We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.”

RobotRebellion2The Fourth Industrial Revolution is interacting with other socio-economic and demographic factors to create a perfect storm of business model change in all industries, resulting in major disruptions to labour markets. New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others. The skill sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work.

It may also affect female and male workers differently and transform the dynamics of the industry gender gap. The Future of Jobs Report aims to unpack and provide specific information on the relative magnitude of these trends by industry and geography, and on the expected time horizon for their impact to be felt on job functions, employment levels and skills.

RobotRebellion3Those who fear the job-destroying impact of machines say this generation of technology is different because it is coming so fast. If older generations created tools for use by humans, such as sewing machines, the new forms of automation are imbued with artificial intelligence, capable of “machine learning” and of rapidly replacing humans in a broad swath of jobs, from manufacturing to services — even jobs that involve writing about robots. Concern about this disruptive advance has been stirred up by authorities such as Oxford University researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, who predicted in 2013 that nearly half of U.S. jobs would be at risk from automation in the next decade or two.

These alarms have sounded before, however. The Machine Intelligence Research Institute at the University of California at Berkeley has found that today, the average forecast for when artificial intelligence will arrive is about 20 years. But that was also the standard prediction in 1955. And often, humans find a way of working with their automated creations. After the introduction of supermarket scanners, the number of cashiers grew. Though legal-discovery software appeared to threaten the jobs of paralegals, their ranks increased, too. Now, many fear that self-driving trucks will displace millions of American truckers, but they may create more and better jobs for those who service those increasingly complex vehicles.

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Everyday Science, In the news..., Research, Technology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s