US study: Split views on robots' employment role

Aug 06, 2014 by Connor Radnovich
This March 19, 2013, file photo shows the iCub robot trying to catch a ball during the Innorobo European summit, an event dedicated to the service robotics industry, in Lyon, central France. The iCub robot, created by the Italian Institute of Technology, is used for research into human cognition and artificial intelligence. Robots and artificial intelligence could create a near-dystopian income gap, kill all low-skill jobs, or have little impact over the next decade. That according to nearly 2,000 experts surveyed for a new study from Pew Research Center's Internet Project and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, File)

In 2025, self-driving cars could be the norm, Americans could have more leisure time and goods could become cheaper. Or, there could be chronic unemployment and an even wider income gap, human interaction could become a luxury and the wealthy could live in walled cities with robots serving as labor.

Or, very little could change.

A new survey released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center's Internet Project and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center found that, when asked about the impact of on jobs, nearly 1,900 experts and other respondents were divided over what to expect 11 years from now.

Forty-eight percent said robots would kill more jobs than they create, and 52 percent said technology will create more jobs than it destroys.

Respondents also varied widely when asked to elaborate on their expectations of jobs in the next decade. Some said that would be common, eliminating taxi cab and long-haul truck drivers. Some said that we should expect the wealthy to live in seclusion, using labor. Others were more conservative, cautioning that technology never moves quite as fast as people expect and humans aren't so easily replaceable.

"We consistently underestimate the intelligence and complexity of human beings," said Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft, who recalls that 40 years ago, people said that advances in computer-coding language were going to kill programming jobs.

Even as technology removed jobs such as secretaries and operators, it created brand new jobs, including Web marketing, Grudin said. And, as Grudin and other survey responders noted, 11 years isn't much time for significant changes to take place, anyway.

Aaron Smith, senior researcher with the Pew Research Center's Internet Project, said the results were unusually divided. He noted that in similar Pew surveys about the Internet over the past 12 years, there tended to be general consensus among the respondents, which included research scientists and a range of others, from business leaders to journalists.

Respondents in this latest survey generally agreed that the education system is failing to teach the skills that students need for the future. Smith said some survey respondents criticized the system for promoting memorization of tasks rather than creativity, teaching a "Henry Ford education for a Mark Zuckerberg economy."

Also, Smith said, some respondents concluded that jobs that don't require specifically human traits—such as empathy, ingenuity or resourcefulness—are at risk for being replaced, including low-skill blue collar jobs or even white-collar jobs that have people performing repetitive tasks.

Respondents offered a few theories about what might happen if artificial intelligence takes over some positions and fewer jobs are created.

Judith Donath, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, foresees chronic mass unemployment with the wealthy living in "walled cities, with robots providing the labor."

Some see people returning to small-scale, handmade production, and an appreciation would grow for products with the "human touch." Others thought people could also face abundant leisure, allowing them to pursue their personal interests.

Stowe Boyd, lead analyst on the future of work at Gigaom Research, said if, as he predicts, widespread joblessness comes to pass, humanity would have to confront its deeper purpose.

"The fundamental question lurking behind all of this is 'what are people for?'" Boyd said.

For this survey, Pew posed closed- and open-ended questions to technology experts—researchers, futurist and tech developers—and other interested parties, including writers and , about how far they expect robots and artificial intelligence to grow, and what the impact will be on jobs by 2025. The study was not representative of a particular group of experts, only of those who chose to respond.

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Scottingham
2.7 / 5 (7) Aug 06, 2014
Unless the word socialism stops becoming a curse word worthy of ending all debate, we're screwed.

Read the story Manna (http://marshallbr...na1.htm) for an inkling of what is likely to happen down this road.

Please note I'm not advocating for socialism as it stands today (or how it was implemented in the past). It's obviously fraught with problems. What is needed is some form of computational socialism that can allocate resources better than any human run entity (gov, corp, ngo, etc).

If the means of production gets decoupled from human labor (as it is rapidly doing) then the true price is reflected in the cost of energy and the raw material costs.

Any hope for the future predicates on
1)A basic income for all people of the world.
2)A steady, reliable, and abundant source of energy and means of distribution.
Scottingham
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2014
Whoever gave my comment a 1 without any rebuttal proves my point exactly.
muggins
5 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2014
It is clear that robots are going to continue to take over jobs and when we reach technological singularity the vast majority of people will be unemployed, therefore we need alternative world-systems to accommodate the advances in AI. Humans didn't evolve with the systems we have in place, we created them and therefore we can change them. Research into how we can adapt society to reflect advances in AI would be welcome.
Huns
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2014
"11 years isn't much time for significant changes to take place, anyway"

- 1990: Few outside of academia and government contractors have heard of the Internet. The idea of a website has been proposed, but there are none yet.
- 2000: No one hasn't heard of the internet. There are about 8,000,000 live websites. Entire industries have sprung up. An enormous "tech bubble" has buoyed the economy.

- 1998: Cell phones are slow bullshit running on 20MHz-class processors that can barely do anything but make calls.
- 2008: Cell phones have gigahertz processors, broadband, big screens, and replace MP3 players, digital cameras, and media players.

- 1941: Japan is fighting in WWII. Its emperor has designs on controlling all of Asia. The most powerful bombs use high explosives, and can destroy entire blocks at once.
- 1951: Japan lost the war years ago. The Japanese way of life has permanently changed. The most powerful bombs use nuclear fusion, and can destroy entire cities at once.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2014
We dont need no socialism, but I agree that we may need to expand existing welfare systems.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2014
Is itreally so bad that robots are taking away jobs? After all: does anyone really think that it is a natural law that humans should spend most of their days doing stuff they'd rather not do...for all eternity?

Work is currently necessary because we haven't figured out how to automatically produce the stuff we need (much less the stuff we want). But what would be the argument against reaching such a state?

That't wouldn't even be socialism (as the whole concept of 'ownership' is moot - even on a society wide level - once automated fabrication is available in abundance.
krundoloss
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2014
We are thinking of the world where we imagine Robots doing work like people, such as cooking food, cleaning, taking your order at a McDonalds. One thing we may not be considering is that things will be done in new ways, using new methods, such as 3D printing. Instead of a robots putting your burger together, cleaning the grill, taking your order, it will more likely be a touchscreen interface where you choose your meal and it is 3D printed out of raw materials and flash-baked or Hydrated to create your food. I feel that fabrication technology will be far more revolutionary than robots themselves. Think of all the systems you replace when you can just print goods at home! That is technology that will cost jobs, for sure!
Modernmystic
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2014
Eventually all manual labor that "wants" to be automated will be. What I mean by "wants" is that there will probably always be a demand for hand crafted artifacts, but beyond that niche non extant. We will have no trouble finding other things to do with our time (be it economical, social, political, or leisure related) other than manual labor. I'm sure there may be a period of adjustment, even a painful one. Then again growth usually is a bit painful and scary to humans. We will get to a point where every human being (not just those of us in the first world) will have access to their own means of production, that will change society more than agriculture and industry combined.

Krundolos makes a good point to in that molecular manufacturing and nanotechnology will actually play a more important role than mere automation, but the synergy between the two will be game changing in a way that redefines the term game changing.
Pexeso
5 / 5 (2) Aug 07, 2014
"We consistently underestimate the intelligence and complexity of human beings," said Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher at Microsoft
I see... 640 kilobytes ought to be enough for everyone.
Huns
not rated yet Aug 07, 2014
Read the story Manna (http://marshallbr...na1.htm) for an inkling of what is likely to happen down this road.

I read it. It's basically Project Venus a.k.a. The Zeitgeist Movement. Even the glass structures are the same as they are in the Zeitgeist movie on Netfux. It proposes functionally robbing people of control over their own bodies so that a remote AI can record our entire lives, nanny us every second we're awake, and take control over our limbs anytime it wants to. I don't think most people would willingly submit to an external intelligence having the final say over everything we do. The system as described is communistic techno-fascism, which I don't think most people are interested in.

I think a lot of jobs are going to be lost due to in-home manufacturing, etc., and others will be created to replace them as the demand ships from centralized manufacturing to distribution of base materials for home fabricators. Like when horse-drawn buggies gave way to cars.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2014
What is needed is some form of computational socialism that can allocate resources better than any human run entity (gov, corp, ngo, etc).


They tried that too. Didn't work very well. The reason why it didn't: http://en.wikiped...toricism

It all comes down to information you feed to the machine, because you can't even define "society" well enough to match what actually exists to know what you're supposed to be doing.

That is, without some unintended consequences like a massive surveillance network and total dissapearance of privacy etc.
kochevnik
5 / 5 (2) Aug 10, 2014
More than half of employable Americans aren't working. This effort will simply bring that percentage closer to 80%. Psychedelic drugs and virtual reality can partially offset the loss of gainful employment
grondilu
not rated yet Aug 11, 2014
Unless the word socialism stops becoming a curse word worthy of ending all debate, we're screwed.


You mean poor people are screwed. People who own capital (robots are means of production, and that is capital), will be fine as long as they can contain the anger and frustration of people who don't.

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