The National Bureau of Economic Research released a study recently, detailing the effects of robots in the workforce in the United States. What they discovered through researching the advancement of robotics from 1990 through 2007 is that between three and 5.6 jobs in local communities were lost with each robot added to the workforce.
In some instances, this can be a good thing. Robots can be built to do the jobs that humans physically cannot achieve. Many robotics components can and do operate in very cold temperatures (up to negative 76 degrees F), allowing them to function in environments where human beings can’t. For instance, in Idaho and Washington, D.C. new delivery robots are already roaming the streets.
While the number of jobs lost seems small, and the benefits that robot workers can give seem great, there are some underlying problems with this whole concept. The jobs and wages lost are not equal throughout the workforce community. Some jobs suffer more quickly than others, particularly those involving blue-collar workers, manual occupations, operators and assembly work, and machinists and transport workers. All these jobs are under threat of being replaced by machines. Out of all of these, the only jobs in these fields that remained untouched were managing positions.
It’s easy, then, to become a little panicked at the thought of one day all these jobs being lost to robotic workers. But, in fact, the number of industrial robots in the U.S. today remains fairly limited.
However, as we have seen in recent years, technology has a tendency to grow and change at a very rapid rate. As such, over the next couple decades, undoubtedly the growth of industrial robots will also see a dramatic increase.
Not only that, but now with the concept of AI and self-driving cars, it creates a whole new subset of potential employment loss. Despite the intriguing concept of robot workers making our lives easier and more convenient, this study concludes that too much of a seemingly good thing will inevitably lead to loss of employment.