Impact of Automation Will Be Indirect as Robotics Develops

In the News
April 14, 2017

As more predictions about impact of automation on jobs come out, how can we sort out science fiction from fact?

Industry observers expect certain regions, such as East Asia, to accelerate their adoption of robotics, but there will be differences between nations. In addition, artificial intelligence could be a collaborator or an overseer.

Robotics Business Review has partnered with me to bring you a weekly roundup of the top robotics developments. Let’s jump from robots sorting packages in China to millions of jobs said to be at risk and the rising expectations around self-driving cars. Are you ready to be updated?

Asia could lose 50M jobs to robots
As robotics and AI expand in capabilities, 50 million jobs in Asia will be at risk of disappearing over the next 15 to 20 years, according to a UBS report. The financial services firm found that countries that depend on manufacturing, such as China, are at the highest risk.

Countries such as India and Singapore that are “services-driven” will be less affected, UBS said.

UBS isn’t the first organization to unveil dire projections for the impact of automation and jobs, but we should put them in perspective for two reasons. The first is that these companies are making such projections based on their understanding of today’s automation. The technology and industry are rapidly changing and need to be better understood.

Second, saying that economies like India and Singapore will be affected less overlooks innovations within the services sector such as automated call centers or accountants. In other words, these predictions consider only one part of the puzzle.

It is no secret that automation will alter or replace millions of jobs. However, at this point, there is little understanding of which positions or sectors are least at risk, how countries will invest in their workforces, and how nations may regulate or tax automation. All of this means that these projections could be right on target or way, way off the wall.

Getting ready for a future with robots
During a conference in Kolkata, India, the president of London-based Imperial College said that people need to move past seeing robots as tools to execute tasks and instead see them as future “collaborators.”

Alice P. Gast went on to say that this paradigm will require that new graduates are trained for “jobs that don’t exist yet.”

Her comments build upon the concept of “coexistence with robots,” coined by my father, AI strategist Aseem Prakash. His idea is that humanity will need to rethink how we will live and work alongside machines and software. He has spoken extensively online and at events worldwide about strategies for dealing with the impact of automation.

Robotics and AI are evolving from carrying out tasks previously done by humans to becoming equal to us in...

Continue Reading