It has been about five years since the publication of my 2009 book The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, which argued that we are on the brink of a revolution in robotics and artificial intelligence that would put millions of jobs at risk—and quite possibly threaten our overall economic prosperity. Over the next few years, I followed up with a series of posts both here and at Huffington Post, warning of a future unemployment crisis, the potential automation of low-wage fast food jobs as well as the higher-skill white collar jobs sought by college graduates, and the negative economic consequences of widespread automation.
For most of the five years that I have been writing on this subject, I’ve been a relatively lonely voice; the attention of both the public and economists has been focused elsewhere. Over the the past year or so, however, things have changed quite dramatically: deep concern about the robot revolution—and its impact on jobs—is going mainstream.
In September, researchers at Oxford University conducted a study of over 700 occupations and found that jobs representing about 47 percent of total U.S. employment (or over 60 million jobs) are likely to be susceptible to automation within the next decade or two. A separate study by a think tank in Brussels found that between 50 and 60 percent of jobs in most European nations could eventually be taken over by robots or algorithms. More recently, a survey of experts by Pew Research found that the vast majority expect that “robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025,” and about half of those surveyed expected a significantly negative impact on jobs.
Many of these concerns are captured in the extremely well-produced video, “Humans Need Not Apply,” just released by C.G.P. Grey. Grey has become well-known for short, high quality videos that clarify a variety of complicated topics, but this is his first full-fledged documentary and offers one of the best explanations I’ve seen as to why we should worry about the coming robot invasion. I’d strongly recommend taking 15 minutes to watch this great video.
This post has moved to this page.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin on Technological Unemployment – InformationWeek
— also more at Forbes
— and Millennials vs. Robots—Who will win the jobs? – CNBC
Daimler Demonstrates a Self-Driving Truck – NY Times
Wall Street on the Leading Edge of AI - The Mitrailleuse
Robot Accidents in the Workplace – NY Times
Deep Learning at Facebook – Technology Review
Robots vs. the Middle Class – Motherboard
Rethinking a Basic Income – NY Times
Stephen Hawking on the dangers of advanced AI – The Independent
Interview of me on Quoracast – Quora.com
A Russian translation of my book The Lights in the Tunnel is now available.
The book can also be purchased online in Ukraine.
Designing the Next Wave of Computer Chips – NY Times
IBM Invests $1 Billion in Watson Technology – Singularity Hub
The Future of Jobs – The Economist
Income Inequality and Automation – Huffington Post
Robots will Stay in the Back Seat (really?) – Financial Times
How robots impact millions of American jobs – Bloomberg (video)
New Book: “The Second Machine Age” – Brynjolfsson and McAfee
Google Jumps into Robotics – NY Times
Robots and Fast Food – Food and Nutrition Report
Security Guard Robots – NY Times
Creative Computing – BBC
Will We ‘Droid Our Economy to Death? – Interview with Fintan Dunne
On the Impact of Autonomous Cars – The New Yorker
Inequality in Silicon Valley – The Weekly Standard
I’ll be speaking at an event hosted by the Warwick PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) Forum, on Saturday, November 9, 2013. The title of the event is “All Work and No Pay in 2013: The Automation of the Global Economy.” Details are here.
I’ll be speaking at the IMPAKT Festival in Utrecht, The Netherlands on Saturday November 2. Information is here.
The festival runs from Oct 30 to Nov 3, and this year’s theme is “Capitalism Catch-22″.
In my book The Lights in the Tunnel, written back in 2009, I wrote:
“So our assumption is going to be that, at some point down the line, machines or computers will take over a great many of these people’s jobs. Not all of them, but a lot. Maybe 40 percent. Maybe half. “
Turns out that wasn’t a bad guess, at least according to some researchers at the University of Oxford. Their best estimate is that 47% of U.S. jobs are susceptible to automation within the next two decades. PDF of the complete report is here.
Will Robots Kill — or Create — your Next Job? – FastCompany
Robots Fill New Roles at Work – PC World
On the Future of Moore’s Law:
An interesting debate over whether automated cars would produce economic growth.
Ryan Avent of the Economist argues “yes” … but I am not so sure. For one thing, automated cars will likely be a shared resource, at least in cities. That means fewer cars, which is certainly good for the environment, but maybe not so good for economic growth — at least in terms of the way we measure GDP. Also, another very important question is whether new technologies like automated cars will raise median incomes (which have been stagnant in the U.S. for decades). Kind of hard for me to see how that would be the case.
I think Robert Gordon raises some valid points, although he is really getting slammed by the techno-optimist/TED Conference community. What do you think?