Robots Stealing Jobs? – CNBC

I had a brief appearance on CNBC this morning to talk about robots and automation. This was my first TV appearance, so hope it’s not too bad… I can’t embed it here, but you can see it on the CNBC site.

Also, here are a couple of good of good automation videos from Singularity Hub.

The first one shows automation at a memory card manufacturer. Notice how the more labor-intensive activities are all offshored to Asia; the US-based portions seem to be almost entirely automated. Also notice how the walls and ceilings are used to move materials. The full article is here.

Here’s a second article and video that show systems focused on sorting, moving materials, palletizing and shipping.

12 thoughts on “Robots Stealing Jobs? – CNBC

  1. Hi Martin,

    I watched the CNBC Video and what your book gets across so clearly (that didn’t come across during the CNBC video) is this core question, “What happens to employment and the economy when robotics and automation can perform a task better than a human can?” Just keep asking the public that one question. It’s brilliant and thought provoking. Every skeptic will at first try to counter with the Luddite fallacy and that’s easy for you to counter now with plenty of evidence and examples. I think your work is really important and we all encourage you to keep waving the flag. Best, Lex

  2. Martin,

    I thought you came across well. I was disappointed by the interviewer (who cares whether automated phone systems are frustrating _today_) and amused by the robotics rep (“robots don’t take jobs from people, just from other robots” :-).

    You did a good job of getting the discussion back on track: focusing on the long term, it’s hard to imagine a future where knowledge workers aren’t impacted by automation.

    I agree with Lex: keep waving that flag!

  3. I think it is important to note that even China is automating their industries.The percentage of their workforce actually employed in manufacturing is declining even as their overall industrial capacities increase.

    The Chinese are very aware of what is going on..after all they read Marx too. The social response to mass unemployment is beginning all over the world..Egypt, Tunisia. The safety net of the US and Europe has so far limited the scope of this response. The ‘austerity” measures being implemented will inevitably force more sectors of society to side with the most destitute, the homeless.

  4. To Martin,
    I‘ve worked as an automation engineer 27 years. I believe your automation arguments are on target. I read recently that CYC project will be delivered in 2012 with human level intelligence! I believe once software and hardware development are mostly automated, technology will accelerate faster than exponential growth. I wonder what Jeff will say then?

  5. I thought you did as good of a job at that interview as you could under the appearance’s set up. Keep up the good work. Maybe talk more about how the BLS calculates unemployment and how it hides the reality about how many people are actually employed and those employed in jobs that actually pay the bills as a percentage of the total adult population. The general public I feel has some real misconceptions about what the official unemployment rate actually means. The effect of automation on unemployment, underemployment needs to be tracked carefully and talked about honestly so that people can be more aware of the real impact.

  6. One of my buddies is always talking about your blog at work – finally came and checked it out today, nice work! I’m subscribing to your rss feed – keep on posting!

  7. Jack – The laws of entropy you are referring to… meaning robotics/automation break down and need maintenance BUT the ratio is 3:8 meaning 3 stay, 2 of which must be with elite training and 8 go. How’s that going to fair in 25 years when the population will be close to 8B. I can’t imagine the government will allow this. How many people will be able to pay taxes. And who’s going to be able to afford expensive academia. Will robots teach the students? I’m 47 and I want this nonsense to end. Call me outdated I don’t care. I love the outdated….makes me feel like me. Does that make sense, does to me….you gotta stay free. All you middle-agers out there, I hope you remember what things were like. I liked it, bond by the pond not the text. Some buttons but no frogs. Maybe the millineum kids will make us some fake ones humping on a lilypad…they still exist. Saw them all round and green but no frogs, no RIBBITS. I WANT THE FROGS BACK AND THE ROBOTS GONE!!!!

  8. Society is so passionate about having enough jobs to go around that I think the governments of the world would get involved if things got bad enough. I can see “Job creation bills” coming out of the Whitehouse left and right if people started to take to the streets. Maybe they will pass an Affirmative Action For Human Beings law where companies have to hire a certain number of people relative to revenue. The World Trade Organization would probably get involved as well so that ruthless countries cannot neglect their people in return for the advantage to produce and export cheaper products with all robots. Or countries could always retaliate with tariffs.

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