Harnessing the Power of Robonomics

Comments Off on Harnessing the Power of Robonomics
Harnessing the Power of Robonomics

Thanks to information technology and business practices like off-shoring and outsourcing, U.S. productivity is rising faster than employment. Since the end of 2001, the number of American jobs has increased by a mere 1.9 percent, while the total number of hours Americans have worked has risen by only 2.8 percent. During that same time, however, GDP has soared by 20 percent.

That's great news for businesses and their shareholders, but the trend troubles those who imagine the nation's workforce shrinking as automation increases. Specifically, the growing use of robots to replace human workers causes nightmares for those who envision the vast majority of jobs being done by machines.

Sales of industrial robots are climbing every year, with an increase of 38 percent between 2010 and 2012. By the end of this year, one expert predicts there will be 1.2 million robots in use around the world.

More Robots, Fewer Jobs Lost

If you look at the rise of robotics pessimistically, that means robots are replacing 1.2 million human workers, or more than 1.2 million since robots can work faster, without breaks, and without getting bored or sick.

Among the pessimists are MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who blame robots in part for the jobless recovery1 As McAfee points out, "Our economy is bigger than it was before the start of the Great Recession. Corporate profits are back. Business investment in hardware and software is back higher than it's ever been. What's not back [are] the jobs."

According to Brynjolfsson, the jobs aren't back because they are already being performed by machines. He laments, "The percentage of Americans with jobs is at a 20-year low. Just a few years ago, if you traveled by air you would have interacted with a human ticket agent. Today, those jobs are being replaced by robotic kiosks. Bank tellers have given way to ATMs, sales clerks are surrendering to e-commerce, and switchboard operators and secretaries to voice recognition technology. There are lots of examples of routine, middle-skilled jobs that involve relatively structured tasks and those are the jobs that are being eliminated the fastest. Those kinds of jobs are easier for our friends in the artificial intelligence community to design robots to handle them."

The result, according to Daniela Rus, director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is that, "we've reached a tipping point in robotics," in which it will be possible for robots to handle the production at a factory "all while you are sleeping...

To continue reading, become a paid subscriber for full access.
Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund