I’ve written a few post now on the impact of computerisation and automation on the jobs market:
Both of these posts highlight the jobs that are likely to be replaced by computers and/or robots.
Steve Denning adds another viewpoint: The ‘Jobless Future’ Is A Myth.
This article is primarily a response to the book The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment (May 2015) by Martin Ford.
As you may have guessed Martin Ford’s view is that the robots will take over and that Steve Denning is taking issue with this viewpoint. I’ve not read the book so can’t comment on it, but I was intrigued by Steve’s viewpoint as a counter-point to the other articles the I have read.
Denning outlines what he regards as a number of flaws in Ford’s reasoning (extracts):
One flaw is the underlying assumption that whatever is feasible will occur…
A second flaw in the reasoning is the implicit assumption that computers with miraculous performance capabilities can be developed, built, marketed, sold, operated and replicated at practically zero cost and that they will have zero secondary employment effects…
A third flaw is the failure to consider how the marketplace will react to the computer as a new market entrant…
A fourth flaw in the reasoning is to assume that when machines replace human capabilities, as they have been doing for thousands of years, nothing else changes…
As a technologist myself it’s great to hear a viewpoint from someone who isn’t. Denning’s perspective is that many of the symptoms that are being assigned to computerisation are also effects that would result from other challenges in the employment marketplace. He list seven different issues including shareholder value theory on which he has written extensively.
Denning concludes like this:
We need to stop agonizing about an apocryphal vision of a “jobless future” and to focus on the pressing real issues that we can actually fix.
There have been many technologists commenting recently:
- Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking warn of artificial intelligence dangers – Mashable
- Bill Gates is worried about artificial intelligence too – CNET
- Apple co-founder on artificial intelligence: ‘The future is scary and very bad for people’ – The Washington Post
My gut feeling is that we are going through a significant shift in employment and what it means to be in a job, but I’ve never felt comfortable with a dystopian view that the machines are going to completely take over. History and experience tells me that we humans will muddle our way through and use our incredible adaptability to find something else to do.