Brookings Institute has published a new book on automation titled, The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation, by Darrell M. West (@darrwest). A Brookings link to the book includes the Table of Contents and Chapter One.
Chapter One is titled Robots and provides a helpful overview of the smart machines in use now or poised to be soon in environments such as restaurants, transportation, factories, retail and warehouses — here and abroad, particularly China.
Author Darrell West also compared the automation revolution to the transition a century ago from an agrarian to an industrial economy: “It took several decades to work through the resulting transformations in business models, employment, and social policy, but leaders rose to the challenge of dealing with those disruptions.”
He made a similar point during an interview with Charles Payne on Fox Business News on Wednesday (video below).
With such radical job loss facing American citizens in the near future, it would make sense to sharply reduce immigration, since we won’t need millions of unskilled foreigners to do jobs that will soon be done by machines if they aren’t already. But nobody’s talking about that.
CHARLES PAYNE (starting 1:30): Without necessarily sounding like Luddites, when we say it will help a certain sector, it sounds like a euphemism, yes, and that also that means fewer humans doing the work. How do we juxtapose these two things?
AUTHOR DARRELL M. WEST: Certainly in sectors like retail, we’ll see a lot of automation. Amazon for example is experimenting with stores without sales clerks. Basically they have devices that will monitor the products you put in your shopping cart. They will automatically charge your credit card or mobile device for what you purchase. You will leave that store without having any dealings with sales clerks. But that worries people on the jobs front, in terms of these technologies are going to take jobs. There will be new jobs created. We need more data scientists, but many Americans do not have those skills. So it could be a rough transition period.
PAYNE: As the author of The Future of Work, we want to know, that transition period sounds very scary and yet at the same time, throughout history, from the very beginning, futurists told us that these robotics would free mankind up for greater pursuits beyond work. Is that too lofty of a goal at least at this stage?
WEST: It’s a lofty goal, but there is a chance in 20 or 30 years we may reach that goal. If we adopt the right policies in terms of helping workers who are going to be displaced by this, putting more effort into workforce development, revamping schools so that the young people today have the skills that will be required in the 21st century economy, I think we can do very well. Of course it will be a challenge in a very polarized and partisan environment to make those kinds of policy changes, but we need to start the process right now to help those workers.
PAYNE: I’m just worried about when the robots unionize.