Skeptics, optimists disagree on tech’s impact on jobs

A year ago this month, the Pew Research Center released a report about advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, and their impact on jobs and employment in the future.

It was a fascinating discussion among 1,896 of the nation’s top experts: CEOs of digital firms, science and technology writers, Internet pioneers, technology gurus and more.

I read the report as part of my research for this week’s series of stories on how automation, robotics and artificial intelligence will affect South Dakota’s labor market and economy in the future.

The group in the Pew report largely agreed that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for such industries as health care, transport and logistics, customer service and home maintenance.

Where they diverged, however, is on how advances in those technologies will impact the economic and employment picture over the next decade.

The most hopeful among the respondents see advances in technology displacing certain types of work, but that it ultimately will be a net creator of jobs. Humans will adapt to evolving technology by inventing new types of work. Automation and artificial intelligence will free us from the day-to-day repetition and drudgery of low-level work and “allow us to define our relationship with work in a more positive and socially beneficial way.”

Those with the greatest concerns believe automation and AI that have already impacted blue-collar employment will threaten to upend white-collar workers as well. Certain highly-skilled workers will succeed, but far more people will be displaced into lower-paying service industry jobs at best, or permanent unemployment at worst, the naysayers suggest.

Here are a couple of examples of responses in the report:

Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, said: “Historically, technology has created more jobs than it destroys, and there is no reason to think otherwise in this case. Someone has to make and service all these advanced devices.”

And this from Mark Nall, a program manager for NASA: “Unlike previous disruptions, such as when farming machinery displaced farm workers but created factory jobs making the machines, robotics and AI are different. Due to their versatility and growing capabilities, not just a few economic sectors will be affected, but whole swaths will be. This is already being seen now in areas from robocalls to lights-out manufacturing. Economic efficiency will be the driver. The social consequence is that good-paying jobs will be increasingly scarce.”

To see the entire report, go to

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Via: Google Alerts for AI