A report on how robotic automation is displacing the need for human workers.
Oxford University economics fellow Susskind (co-author: The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, 2016) spent nearly a decade researching how the rise of mechanical manufacturing, computerized production, and artificial intelligence is directly and unstoppably affecting the human workforce. He delivers a worst-case scenario in the form of an update on the economic and workforce landscape upheaval that has been in motion for decades thanks to a steep uptick in the integration of robotic production and AI. Sometimes densely academic, Susskind’s pragmatic narrative is bolstered by statistical charts and graphs supporting his theories. The author diligently explains the history of these replacement technologies, the patterns they followed, and why their impacts on the giants of industry should be taken seriously. The threat of “technological unemployment” is very real, he writes, and the problems it creates will consist of increased outperformance by automated workers and a subsequent dwindling array of tasks that could be considered human-specific. Susskind also addresses the growing problem of economic inequality by way of the disparity between power-hungry, financially astute “supermanagers” (so named by economist Thomas Piketty) and stagnant workers with lower-paying jobs. Thankfully, the author doesn’t deliver this grim prognosis without a proactive response or hints at how a complementary workforce fueling economic stabilization could be achieved in the long term. He posits a multitiered approach involving new skills-based education for laborers, increased regulatory control over larger technology companies, the introduction of a “robot tax,” and financial incentives for employers using a sizable manual labor force. Susskind’s economic perspective makes the conundrum crystal clear, and he makes a convincing and illuminating argument to decelerate the onset of global “automation anxiety.”
A complex yet lucid and surprisingly optimistic account from the frontlines of technology addressing the challenges facing the human workforce.