21 Mar How robots will reshape the U.S. economy
Few doubt that our future — both immediate and long term — will be heavily impacted by robots. With flashy AI technology like IBM’s Watson and Google’s driverless cars stealing headlines and outperforming their human competitors, it’s clear that our economy is bracing for a fundamental shift in how we perform work.
What’s less obvious, however, is exactly what the workplace of the future will look like. A pair of Oxford researchers recently estimated that 47 percent of the total U.S. employment is at risk of being eliminated. On the other end of the spectrum, Mercedes announced it is trading out some of its production robots for human labor — the machines could not keep up with the increasing options for customization.
While these two camps continue to argue, in this article we’ll explore three robotic trends that the prevailing media have missed in their coverage of the future of jobs — trends that will hold true if we continue this automation trajectory.
One of the largest obstacles to success facing U.S. businesses today, regardless of size, is controlling labor costs; for many, the cost of labor is second only to the cost of real estate. If a company can maintain consistent labor costs while simultaneously increasing productivity, it will be far more competitive both at home and abroad. Robotic technology makes that possible.
Robots help companies automate the most mundane and repetitive parts of their processes, freeing skilled workers to focus on more business-critical tasks. Indeed, the word “robot” is derived from the Czech term “robota,” meaning forced labor. The vast majority of automation technology will not outright replace humans; instead, it will simply make their work more efficient.