Subject is, do robots kill more jobs than they create?
We've approached this question many times in various Wikistrat sims, and they are many thoughts on the subject.
In a macro sense, the nightmare scenario is silly: no society is going to job-destroy its way to rule by robots. The amateur economist in me believes life just migrates into new areas, so there are plenty of jobs creating robots and economic activity moves on to new challenges/spheres/what have you.
But in the near-term sense, people's perceptions of the disruptive churn (sure to happen) matter a whole lot.
So this NYT report by the always smart John Markoff on a recent robotic industry conference that sought to allay some of these fears (robots everywhere!).
- US automating and using more robots but it's still the biggest manufacturing country in terms of dollar value (I thought Germany was, but we're up there, so point taken), so we have to remember that that "manufacturing produces more jobs in associated areas than anything else."
- Neither Europe nor Japan seems to share our fears on this subject.
- Without automation, you can't compete globally. So if you want to steel back those jobs from China, this is how you do it.
- "Countries that have high productivity can afford to have a good social system and a good health system." Germany and Sweden are considered great examples of this.
Hmm. Not exactly decisive, but you get the idea. Nobody wants to own the world's most manpower-intensive manufacturing sector - except maybe Bangladesh. So there's no way to go except onward and upward, as my Dad used to say. Manufacturing, if highly productive, still wins and creates wider wins in your economy.
But yeah, you still have to beat the next guy - and his robot.