Robots are coming for (some) of your jobs, according to a recent survey of tech experts
by Elon University and the Pew Internet Project. The survey, which went out to 1,896 respondents, centered on one question:
“Self-driving cars, intelligent digital agents that can act for you, and robots are advancing rapidly. Will networked, automated, artificial intelligence (AI) applications and robotic devices have displaced more jobs than they have created by 2025? Describe your expectation about the degree to which robots, digital agents, and AI tools will have disrupted white collar and blue collar jobs by 2025 and the social consequences emerging from that.”
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Many of those experts felt that, while robotics and AI will eliminate a number of professions, they will ultimately create more net jobs. Also, the jobs impacted by this next evolution in technology will primarily be white-collar, as opposed to the blue-collar positions terminated by previous advances in automation and manufacturing. “Certain highly-skilled workers will succeed wildly in this new environment—but far more may be displaced into lower-paying service industry jobs at best, or permanent unemployment at worst,” the report’s summary warns
. “Our educational system is not adequately preparing us for work of the future, and our political and economic institutions are not prepared to handle this future.” Despite that coming displacement, roughly half of those surveyed thought that, even as robots and “digital agents” take over jobs, “human ingenuity will create new jobs, industries, and ways to make a living, just as it has been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.” In addition, jobs that involve a significant degree of critical thinking, emotional connection, or creativity may permanently remain “human” professions. “Historically, technology has created more jobs than it destroys and there is no reason to think otherwise in this case,” Vint Cerf, the chief Internet evangelist at Google widely regarded as a “father of the Internet,” is quoted as saying in the report. “Someone has to make and service all these advanced devices.” But Mike Roberts, another Internet pioneer, told the survey-takers that, thanks to robots and AI, a whole lot of unemployment pain awaits us in the near future. “Electronic human avatars with substantial work capability are years, not decades away,” he said. “The situation is exacerbated by total failure of the economics community to address to any serious degree sustainability issues that are destroying the modern ‘consumerist’ model and undermining the early 20th century notion of ‘a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.’” Whichever future prevails, it’s likely years (if not decades) away. However, that likely won’t assuage the concerns of many a forward-thinking tech worker.
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