Originally published August 18 2014
Automation robots to result in huge job losses for Americans
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Since the dawning of the Industrial Age in America and around the globe, automation and machinery have been steadily taking the place of human laborers. Now, a new technology threatens to replace even more jobs -- robotics.
In fact, they are already among us. They control our smartphones, refrigerators, personal computers and even our automobiles. And they are being used to manufacture those and many other items.
But what should Americans do, especially in a chronically weak job market -- embrace a "cyborg future where tasks great and small are carried out by robots, or fight for our right to party as humans?" asks PC Magazine, rhetorically, in a recent piece.
According to the magazine, a recent survey was taken of nearly 2,000 technology experts by the Pew Research Center regarding how the increasing automation of our world is likely to impact us, and in particular how it will affect human employment.
"The survey identified a number of reasons to be hopeful instead of fearful of our robot overlords," PC Mag reported. "Among the pros: technology that frees us from day-to-day drudgery and the invention of new types of work."
'More than half say the future is bright'
Of course, there are downsides to every technological development, and it is no different in this case. Some experts who responded to Pew's survey questions hinted that the next wave of innovation in robotics will likely focus much more on white collar work, which will result in many highly skilled workers being displaced into lower-paying types of jobs in other industries, or becoming unemployed permanently.
By far, the majority of tech experts surveyed said they expect robotics and AI -- artificial intelligence -- to dominate industries like healthcare, transport and logistics, as well as customer service and home maintenance by 2025. However, they are divided over exactly what kind of impact these advances will have on the economy, as well as overall employment, in the coming decade.
More than half of the surveyed experts say the future will be positive, and that robots and humans will co-exist to fulfill current jobs, as well as create new ones, "just as it [society] has been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution," Pew noted.
J.P. Rangaswami, chief scientist for Salesforce.com, is in the camp of the optimists. He says that the effects will differ by economy, and while some entire classes of jobs will be turned over to "immigrants" of AI, "more will have been generated in creative and curating activities as demand for their services grows exponentially." For example, say some other experts, robotic engineering and maintenance will become more prevalent.
Other experts say that, while some jobs are always lost to technology, historically it has been a job creator. One of those is Microsoft's principle researcher, Jonathan Grudin.
"Technology will continue to disrupt jobs, but more jobs seem likely to be created. There is no shortage of things that need to be done and that will not change," he told PC Mag.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Grudin added, "We consistently underestimate the intelligence and complexity of human beings."
Recipe for instability
Still, others in the survey were not so optimistic. Nearly half of those surveyed -- about 48 percent -- said digital agents and technology tend to displace significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers, which can eventually lead to a breakdown in the social order.
In the always-expanding world of technology, each generation of humans is witness to new gadgets and services that supplant earlier versions of gadgets and services, eventually leading to job losses in key industries. They point to automobile and other manufacturing, where technology and robotics have replaced millions of jobs over the past century.
"Robots and AI threaten to make even some kinds of skilled work obsolete (e.g., legal clerks)," said Tom Standage, digital editor of The Economist. "This will displace people into service roles, and the income gap between skilled workers whose jobs cannot be automated and everyone else will widen. This is a recipe for instability."
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