New report — Robotics the fastest growing industry in the world

“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

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4 thoughts on “New report — Robotics the fastest growing industry in the world

  1. Pingback: New report -- Robotics the fastest growing indu...

  2. From G+
    Todd McKissick

    This report actually investigates ways that unions and legal policy can force employers to not employ robotics and automation simply because of the impact it has on jobs.

    When did it become the government’s or the employees’ right to dictate to a company what machines they can use to cut costs? Scary stuff!

    If the employees don’t want to lose wages, they should join forces and create their own business where they can pay each other what they want.

    Fredrik Wågensand

    I thought it actually did a good job at recognizing and addressing some of the problems inherent to automation. Balancing the power between employers and empoyees has more or less been the government’s job ever since the workers movement started gaining momentum back in the 19th century eventually leading to the creation of the middle-class and the Western World economic miracle.

    America could of course have kept on the laissez faire-path that libertarians today are so fond of masturbating to, in which case the call for Hoover to be hanged back in the 1930s might actually have been acted upon. Revolution is not a pretty thing, but when all else fails there’s always the brick, and if automation continues to make workers redundant without any social safety nets or political reforms, someone will eventually pick one up.

    Even though Kickstarter and co-op STEM-communities might work as a solution for the richest percents, the idea that everybody can just “join forces and create their own business where they can pay eachother what they want” are, to my mind, just libertarian fantasies.

    If implemented these methods must still be combined with a broad range of social reforms, like for example lower work hours and basic income, and the money to do this will most probably have to come from heavier taxation of the current winners in the economic game. I’m not talking communism – capitalism remains the greatest model for creating innovation and wealth, but it has to be capitalism with social responsibility.

    Automation presents us with the marvelous opportunity to create a world with greater wealth and less work for ALL. It would be sad to see that opportunity squandered on the high altar of libertarian idealism.

  3. From Google+
    Todd McKissick wrote:

    +Fredrik Wågensand Please explain to me exactly how wealth inequality will be ended, or even reduced at all, with “the richest percents” holding all the wealth and the unemployed relying on their government to make things fair. Since I assume you advocate that they hold the keys to their companies because you’re “not talking communism”, they simply decide how wealthy to allow the poorest percents to become. Keep in mind that as their combined wealth and power increases, they will always hold more control over the government that you wish the impoverished to use to regulate them. How is that going to work out? Perhaps like it is now?

    We currently have governments controlling ALL ASPECTS of our society. The regulators get free roam to interpret all laws as they see fit and as such, create enforced monopolies for those who can pay to make such endeavors happen. These days, they don’t fear exposure, protests, petitions, media, the courts or anything short of economic tragedy. I cannot think of a single industry that this doesn’t occur in today so to think that increasing the divide between those top percents holding corporate control, government control and personal wealth vs those with much less of the three is simply idealistic, wishful thinking. We’ve tried all the other -isms but we’ve never seen a genuine free market capitalism in history. This speaks volumes if one is willing to listen. The future should not involve more socialism but rather, none.

    We have the ability now, for the first time in all of human history, to open up the channels of information to allow absolute truths and unaltered opinions to permeate society with no restrictions. This leads to more direct control for the masses over collective decisions, not less. Why should we throw this opportunity away just because a few un-insightful voices cannot conceive of how to make it work?

    For every single government ‘program’ (be it social safety net, corporate control or even community service), there is a viable private solution. In every case, this solution is more effective AND more accountable, as well as much, much more cost effective. The only issue that arises with them is that they often take longer to implement or refine. With social networking systems that allow the best ideas to float to the top via merit, not simply popularity, that could change as well.

    All that said, the crux of the matter is that as Technological Unemployment grows (and I think most here would agree that’s a definite), the majority of jobs WILL GO AWAY. There is no alternative. Categorizing that as a problem is the wrong approach. It’s actually a good thing. The problem lies in that our current economy is predicated on infinite economic growth which must either go to corruption, wages or investment. So, since investment is akin to corruption, with respect to overall productivity and equality, fixing the wage factor becomes the only viable option. And when that has worked (past tense at some point), it will eventually create earlier retirements (because less hours/week is not viable) and less social stresses.

    In short, without the mandated monopolies over things like investing, saving and partnering, the game will change. Communities could return to local investments and ubiquitous technology/automation to keep that gargantuan percentage of wealth at home that has been leaving since the dawn of state sanctioned investment ‘reform’. Remember, local business owners don’t need to be reminded that pitch forks and torches work much better locally.

    Fredrik Wågensand wrote:

    Well, regarding your question of how inequality will be ended I believe that we still live in democracies which albeit hardly perfect still have the power to translate the will of the majority into political policy. For sure, the richest percent have kidnapped the system, particularly in the US, where campaign contributions have succeded in perverting the system into a sort of oligarchy. Imperfect as representative democracy is however, it remains the only viable idea for governance (I’m not even going to argue against anarchy in any form – its as futile and boring as arguing against creatonism)

    The will of the 99% is still a force to be reckoned with. Given enough pressure the current economic system would yield to reform. It is true that the powers that be might resist to such a degree that revolution would have to be needed (which would make things a lot messier and potentially leading to dictatorship under either a communist or fascist flag) but given the growing research about these future reforms (which this forum is a brilliant example of) I remain an optimist. The above article actually holds some ideas about how the reforms would be implemented and a fascinating study of future tax-systems in the Appendix.

    I would also like to note that inequality has been fought succesfully once before. Thanks to socialism, unions and the workers movement we were, within the context of democracy, able to elevate the 99%,, create the middle-class in the Western World and almost eradicate poverty. It’s not going to be easy but I’m sure the current backlash in the form of neoliberalism can be defeated again.

    Your suggestions seem completely based on free-market solutions and, from what I understand, without any government regulation whatsoever? You claim that the private solutions are by default both more effective and more accountable in all areas.

    But what about natural monopolies? What about areas where this has been tried and failed (like deregulation of the railroads in New Zealand or Great Britain)? And even though private solutions may be more effective in some areas – more accountable? Really? Why on Earth would a company feel the need to be accountable without any legislation or regulation?

    Perhaps you meant that this would keep them in check: “We have the ability now, for the first time in all of human history, to open up the channels of information to allow absolute truths and unaltered opinions to permeate society with no restrictions. This leads to more direct control for the masses over collective decisions, not less.”

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you don’t mean that Twitter and Facebook-posts will save the world. Journalism has unearthed many skeletons in many cupboards in the past and new technology might make it even easier in the future. But the best of these Watergates or Enrongate or whatever, where almost always followed by more regulation, not less.

    Whatsmore, consumer power doesn’t really work. Almost everybody is appaled by how we treat chicken, but we still continue to eat them, because its the cheapest meat. And without government legislation I can asure you they’d be treated a whole lot worse – and be even cheaper!

    Also, without top-to-bottom democratic reforms, how will this new society be created in the first place? It sounds that you have a high-tech version of a cooperative or co-op in mind. Which is a good socialist idea that we might see more of in the future, but to just set your hopes that the organic growth of such organizations will someday be enough to permeate to whole world is probably not something you want to do while keeping your breath. In the dawn of the automation/robot-discussion Marshall Brain presented similar ideas, but they where also based on some sort of basic income which is something that could never be created from the bottom-up (barring a union or socialist take-over of the means of production).

    This ramble got quite long, but in short I wonder about a few things:
    1. How would this ideal free-market economy be created in the first place, without democratic reform?
    2. How could private solutions be more accountable without governmental legislation?
    3: How would the rights of the employees (regarding wages, health, privacy, etc) be protected from employers without regulation?

    Bonus question: What do you mean when you talk of investment as being akin to corruption?
    Show less

    Todd McKissick wrote:

    +Fredrik Wågensand Absolutely awesome post. Very easy reading and focus with lots of info and directed questions. It leads me directly to making easy points which should clarify my positions better. Thnx for that.

    Tackling your summary first:
    How would a truly free market be created without democratic reform? Privately and one by one. When a single business is created via non-debt money (pick your method) and operated ONLY on a local scale, they can be much more economical than the big conglomerates. They have no unnecessary overhead, debt or external market forces to deal with. Only the basics. As such, they can operate the entire business without the top 1-3 tiers of ‘management’. This is how most small town businesses have been run for centuries. The owner does it all unless he hires 1-2 workers. With the tech available today, this can easily be expanded to many other industries.

    In effect, we now have 100 workers in a big factory with 30 being useless manager types (overhead) and 70 workers not earning enough to support their families. As such, 2-3 people in each of those 70 families now need to find work elsewhere. That’s 210-280 ‘productive’ unemployed people each needing jobs because 30 people take most of the wealth. What I’m proposing is that this company would shift to a different structure.

    New structure. Said company is now owned by 50 ‘partners’ that still do the work. They have cut that overhead and they focus on automation to do the missing 20 people’s work. The now lower prices because of lower costs and higher automation but there’s still more left for each than they used to earn. This increase in income continues as they further automate. Due to their newly high wages, the 140-210 family members now have their financial support (the 50 ‘single worker’ incomes that can support many of them.)

    The total discretionary income of these partner families is now higher (not gross incomes). They benefit.
    The local economy just lost around 100 people looking for work or taking up jobs. It benefits.
    The tax structure now gets more people paying fair taxes (no loopholes since they’re not rich enough like the former owners were). This benefits all.
    The company now has higher community support because it is doing more good than bad for a change. This reduces or eliminates sales and marketing expenses, further increasing wages while cutting cost/price. The ‘process’ benefits.
    The other companies and workers see how they could become more wealthy by buying their company out and doing the same things. The whole process is repeated there and expands all benefits proportionally. This ‘cuts unemployment’ even more via the same way the first company did. When the day comes that the majority of local companies run this way, there will be less workers needing jobs than there remain jobs which puts the worker’s in the driver’s seat for setting wages. It raises the overall wage average of the community while allowing many more people to stay home and raise kids, be good neighbors, do charity work, do hobbies or whatever they want.

    Wow that was long as well so I’ll be more brief….
    More accountable? Those new ‘partners’ are now well known local community members who have to look people in the eye. They haven’t run off to work on Wall St. Local sales follow peer pressure as the next disciplinarian holding to account.

    Rights protected? The employees are the owners. They will obviously support everything they need.

    Investment = corruption? Investment without accountability (think big or public) has but a single goal – money. It can run away when confronted with local pollution, wage problems, getting caught bribing government or any other social negative. Local investment, however, is really not much different than being a partner. With nothing but partners running the business, and their business being local and dependent on local image, any negatives translate directly to their bottom line.

    Random order:

    The US is a republic (as you noted – representative), not a democracy. The former uses rule of law to control everyone equally while the latter allows a majority to decide their needs outweigh those of the minority. This has been hijacked but the principle lives on (somehow). Through this hijacking, regulation has been redirected to allow monopolies. This isn’t something that can be stopped easily because the masses now think along the democracy line. Every single industry today is already a monopoly, although most mask this by appearing as an oligopoly. (Newer ones like computers might not be quite there yet.) The only way this is possible is via the regulation that kills off small, efficient competition. (Think of the housewife who isn’t allowed to sell home made bread for 10% of market prices.) The only other way to gain a monopoly is capture of technology. Without government intervention and with most all tech reaching the garage inventor, literally no monopolies would be possible. In theory. ;)

    And with tech in the hands of the masses, the new, better and cheaper options become available – like free range chicken – giving the people an alternative to choose so they CAN decide to vote with their money.

    The only thing I don’t think I covered well enough is how the people can get the real truth. While it’s like FB/Twitter, I see our news future more like Wikipedia for news. I’ve been refining this since Perot was denigrated in ’92 so bear (bare?) with me. All news is subject to ongoing, debate with all supporting info needing sourced. In short, it is virtually infallible if given enough time/usage. I think this will greatly diminish mainstream media, hyper-commercialism and corporate spin from having the effect on the masses that they do now. It’s the natural progression of putting the web to use for humanity.

  4. Pingback: The Public Is Onto Us: AI is becoming a discussion topic for all | Synthetic Verity

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