Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Will Robots Take Your Job? by Nigel M. de S. Cameron

In Will Robots Take Your Job? A Plea for Consensus, Nigel M. de S. Cameron asks what is a more and more realistic question.  So, will a robot take my job?  Maybe.  It depends.  Ask the bank teller who was displaced by the ATM.  Ask the grocery store checker displaced by self-checkout stations.  Ask any former assembly line worker.  Ask the taxi driver soon to be displaced by self-driving cars.

De Cameron takes a broad view of the impact of mechanical intelligence and robot workers on employment trends.  Reviewing an array of research, he determines that "there is wide agreement that the development of Artificial Intelligence and robotics is set to have an enormous impact on the future of human work--driving up productivity, but in the process narrowing or completely shutting down many traditional jobs."  While some jobs are more at risk than others, "it would be unwise to bet on any particular human function being 'secure'--safe for our species to perform, safe from the rivalry of machines."

The levels of displacement run deeper than might be obvious.  For instance, we hear a lot about driverless cars.  Obviously, taxi drivers, truck drivers, and Uber drivers' jobs would be at risk.  But if, as expected, driverless cars lead to fewer people owning cars, jobs related to the manufacture and repair of cars would diminish.  Driverless cars would be safer, so auto accidents would drop, leaving ERs without a major client base.  The ripples go on and on.

Many observers point out that historically, when new technologies displace workers, new jobs or whole industries arise.  De Cameron is not so sure that there will be enough jobs to replace those taken by AI and robots.  Will Robots Take Your Job? is a readable introduction to this topic.  It asks more questions than it answers, and ends up wishy washy on the questions he asks.  It will definitely get you thinking about whether you need to reexamine your own career choices.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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