Two Myths About Automation by Barry Eichengreen
BERKELEY – Robots, machine learning, and artificial intelligence promise to change fundamentally the nature of work. “Forrester Predicts that AI-enabled Automation will Eliminate 9% of US Jobs in 2018,” declares one headline. “McKinsey: One-third of US workers could be jobless by 2030 due to automation,” seconds another. Reports like these leave the impression that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically. As the economist Timothy Taylor recently pointed out, the rate of change of the occupational structure, defined as the absolute value of jobs added in growing occupations and jobs lost in declining occupations, has been slowing, not accelerating, since the 1980s. The second thing everyone thinks they know is that previously safe jobs are now at risk. Once upon a time, it was possible to argue that robots would displace workers engaged in routine tasks, but not the highly skilled and educated – not the doctors, lawyers and, dare one say, professors. As a result, all jobs, even those of doctors, lawyers, and professors, are being transformed. At one level, this is good news for those concerned about the prospects of incumbent workers: there will continue to be demand for workers in existing occupations. The knowledge they acquire on the job – of how one interacts with patients, how one recognizes their moods, and how one acknowledges their needs – will remain pertinent and valued. The vast majority of Americans already work in the service sector. In countries like Germany, workers in a variety of sectors receive training as apprentices and then over the course of their working lives. Companies invest and reinvest in their workers, because the latter can insist on it, possessing as they do a seat in the boardroom as a result of the 1951 Codetermination Law. In the US, board membership for workers’ representatives, strong unions, and government regulation of private-sector training are not part of the prevailing institutional formula. As a result firms treat their workers as disposable parts, rather than investing in them.
CEO of automation company ABB says we shouldn’t fear automation
“I think we need to take this fear extremely seriously and get people out of this fear,” he said. In his view, automation and robotics has allowed millions of people to move beyond the extreme poverty line and it’s the countries that embraced automation – including the likes of China and India – that are doing much better than some of their counterparts that have resisted automation. “Technology can be really good if you play it right,” Spiesshofer noted. “The truth is that the countries with the highest robot density – South Korea, Germany, Japan – have the lowest unemployment rates.” If people are afraid, Spiesshofer seemed to say, that’s because they don’t know the facts. ABB itself, he said, now has more employees who are robot engineers than it ever had casting mechanics. Tc disrupt berlin-spiesshofer-abb-4224 tc disrupt berlin-spiesshofer-abb-4198 tc disrupt berlin-spiesshofer-abb-4210 tc disrupt berlin-spiesshofer-abb-4211 tc disrupt berlin-spiesshofer-abb-4214 tc disrupt berlin-spiesshofer-abb-4222 tc disrupt berlin-spiesshofer-abb-4217. Spiesshofer noted that we need a lifelong education ecosystem that enables intergenerational education. Companies like ABB need to embrace this and allow their employees to learn new skills. Ideally, the secondary benefit of doing that is increased morale and employee loyalty. Looking ahead isn’t the end-state artificial intelligence and a future where robots don’t need to collaborate with humans? Spiesshofer believes AI is all about augmenting human potential. AI will only make humans more productive, and in the end, you’ll still need engineers who understand how these machines function. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the CEO of ABB believes that automation will have a positive impact. Still, Spiesshofer clearly argues that this won’t be an easy path for everybody. You won’t be able to just do one job for the rest of your life, after all. You will have to learn new skills and ideally, you’ll learn how to program the robots that will then help you do your job.
Robot automation will ‘take 800 million jobs by 2030’
Up to 800 million global workers will lose their jobs by 2030 and be replaced by robotic automation, a new report from a consultancy has found. The study of 46 countries and 800 occupations by the McKinsey Global Institute found that up to one-fifth of the global work force will be affected. It said one-third of the workforce in richer nations like Germany and the US may need to retrain for other jobs. Machine operators and food workers will be hit hardest, the report says. Poorer countries that have less money to invest in automation will not be affected as much, according to McKinsey. India, the authors write, will only have about 9% of jobs replaced by emerging technologies. The authors see tasks carried out by mortgage brokers, paralegals, accountants, and some back-office staff as especially vulnerable to automation. Jobs requiring human interaction such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and bartenders are seen by McKinsey as less prone to automation. Specialised lower-wage jobs, such as gardening, plumbing and care work, will also be less affected by automation, the study predicted. In developed countries, the need for a university education will grow, as jobs that require less education shrink. In the US alone, 39 to 73 million jobs may be eliminated by 2030, but about 20 million of those displaced workers may be able to easily transfer to other industries, according to the McKinsey report. In the UK, 20% of current jobs will be automated over the same period, the author’s forecast. The authors believe the world will see a transition on the scale of the early 1900s when much of global industry switched from farming to factory work. They caution that new technology will yield new types of jobs, similar to the introduction of the personal computer in the 1980s which led to technology support work, and online business. The report’s authors urge governments to enact plans to retrain their citizens.