Summary: The argument in the popular press about robots taking our jobs fails in the most fundamental way to differentiate between robots and AI. Here we try to identify how each contributes to job loss and what the future of AI-Enhanced Robots means for employment.
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Summary: The argument in the popular press about robots taking our jobs fails in the most fundamental way to differentiate between robots and AI. Here we try to identify how each contributes to job loss and what the future of AI-Enhanced Robots means for employment. There’s been a lot of contradictory opinion in the press recently about future job loss from robotics and AI. They range from Bill Gates’ hand-wringing assertion that we should slow this down by taxing robots to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s seemingly Luddite observation “In terms of artificial intelligence taking over the jobs, I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen. I think it’s 50 or 100 more years.”
But these extreme end points of the conversation aren’t the worst of it. There is essentially no effort in the popular press to differentiate ‘robot’ from ‘AI’.
AI enhanced robots are much in the press and much on the mind of data scientists. So is it principally advances in deep learning (AI) that are the main cause of future job loss or robots as they currently exist?
Automation Always Meant Shifting Job Needs
Job loss, or more correctly task and skill redistribution due to automation has been going on at least since water wheels eliminated human labor in ancient civilizations.
Ned Ludd was the English apprentice who smashed two automated stocking frames in 1779 to protest the loss of manual work giving rise to the political movement and term Luddite. (Note that the automated stocking frame was invented in 1589 so almost 200 years elapsed before the social protest.)
Then there is John Maynard Keynes’s frequently cited prediction of widespread technological unemployment “due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we […]