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“Robotics is the fastest growing industry in the world, poised to become the largest in the next Sophie hr robotdecade.”

That’s the opening quote from a new report by Littler Mendelson, the world’s largest labor and employment law firm.

The Report titled: “The Transformation of the Workplace Through Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Automation” is focused on How the ‘Robotics Revolution Will Shape the employment and Labor Law Landscape.’ It states that as robotic systems, AI, and 21st century automation are developing at an exponential pace, creating work environments and conditions unimagined a half century or more ago, employers and employees should know their rights and be active participants in the discussion about how labor laws will change.

Outlining what they mean by robotics systems the authors indicate:

A “robotic system” is a computer system that, using intelligent, networked devices, the Internet, big data, AI algorithms, and other advanced computing technology, is capable of: automatically and continually

“Sensing” what is going on in a changing physical or other environment;

“Thinking” by analyzing data it collects from the environment it is monitoring (e.g. detecting occurrences, changes, and anomalies), identifying trends, and reaching conclusions; and autonomously

Acting” by carrying out one or more physical (e.g. navigating through an environment, manipulating an object, etc.) or non-physical (e.g. alerting human operators, recommending potential responses, making decisions, initiating commands, etc.) functions.

Stated more simply, it is any computer system capable of sensing occurrences in a dynamic situation or environment, capturing and analyzing the relevant data, and subsequently reaching conclusions, providing recommendations, making decisions, and otherwise taking action, whether of a physical or non-physical nature.

Displacement and creation of jobs

Whilst historically, the infusion of new technologies into the workplace has greatly increased productivity and human employment. The authors write: “what is different now and over the next decade is the speed of change, the challenge of displaced workers to retrain and quickly adjust to the new economy, and the unprecedented demand for STeM-qualified job candidates.”

They believe that robotics is the next major innovation to transform the workplace, and will have as great — if not greater — impact on how employers operate than the Internet.

Providing solid guidance for employers and employees the authors do offer encouragement:

Many existing jobs will be automated in the next 20 years. Several repetitive, low-skilled jobs are already being supplanted by technology. However, a number of studies have found that in the aggregate, the robotics industry is creating more jobs than robots replace. For example, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimates that robotics directly created four to six million jobs through 2011, with the total rising to eight to 10 million if indirect jobs are counted. The IFR projects that 1.9 to 3.5 million jobs will be created in the next eight years.

Whilst initially US centric, I would encourage people, regardless of global location, to not only download and read the report but provide feedback to the authors as they seek to help shape employment law, something that will have a significant impact on us all.

Picture: Sophie the HR robot