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Dublin: 14°C Monday 16 May 2022

Are robots going to take all of our jobs?


POLICY MAKERS ARE “flying blind” into another industrial revolution, according to a new study.

The question of automation of a number of industries hangs over many workers, but a study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) in the US suggests the world isn’t ready for it.

“Policymakers are flying blind into what has been called the fourth industrial revolution,” said Tom M Mitchell, the E Fredkin University Professor in the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science, and Erik Brynjolfsson, the Schussel Family Professor in the MIT Sloan School of Management, co-chairs of the NASEM study.

They say that policy makers around the world need to take wider and more accurate stats from workforces. Failure to do so could, at best, result in missed opportunities; at worst, it could be disastrous.

The study and a related commentary are published in the journal Nature.

The future effects of IT and AI will likely larger than have already been seen, the NASEM report says, but it’s hard to say definitively if technology will expand or shrink the workforce.

“There is a dramatic shortage of information and data about the exact state of the workforce and automation, so policymakers don’t know answers to even basic questions such as ‘Which types of technologies are currently having the greatest impacts on jobs?’ and ‘What new technologies are likely to have the greatest impact in the next few years?’” Mitchell said.

“Our NASEM study report details a number of both positive and negative influences technology has had on the workforce,” Mitchell said.

These include replacing some jobs by automation, creating the opportunity for new types of freelance work in companies like Uber and Lyft, and making education and retraining courses available to everyone through the internet. But nobody can judge today the relative impact these different forces have made on the workforce, or their net outcome.

The NASEM panel recommended that to prepare students for a constantly changing workforce, schools should focus attention on those uniquely human characteristics that could differentiate people from machines in the workplace, and emphasise training in fields expected to drive the future economy.

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