Today, more and more jobs are being done by robots. Machines are doing the mechanical, mindless tasks we spend so much time on and are doing a more precise job. So, not only is productivity and output of those jobs increasing, we are also freeing up time for humans for the more intellectual pursuits that no machine is capable of. But will humans ever become completely obsolete? Here are three possible scenarios for how technology might change the workforce, as outlined by Andrew McAfee in this fascinating interview.
Are robots really taking our jobs?
Andrew McAfee: “Sure, but there has always been job destruction because of automation and technological progress. The important thing to keep in mind is that there has also always been job creation because of these same forces. Right now, there is a wave of tech hitting the economy and the workforce. The question is: is the balance shifting?”
How do you see it playing out?
“Three possible scenarios could happen with this current wave of technology. One is that it is going to hit the economy, and it might take a while to work itself out, but in the end we will reach a happy equilibrium. The Industrial Revolution was great news, eventually, for British workers. Electrification of factories eventually led to a large, stable, and prosperous American middle class. That pattern should give us confidence that we will wind up in another happy equilibrium.”
What are the other possible scenarios?
“Scenario two is that we see successive waves: artificial intelligence, automated driving that will impact people who drive for a living, robotics that will impact manufacturing. If scenario two happens, the problem is a bit worse because it will be difficult for the economy to keep adjusting and for workers to keep retraining.
Scenario three is that we finally transition into this science-fiction economy, where you just don’t need a lot of labor.”