A recent newsletter from Harvest Automation, the start-up company that produces robots that move potted plants at nurseries and greenhouses, cites two very revealing trends regarding migrant workers.
Many in the Artificial Intelligence and robotics professions clearly state that their work is toward what has come to be called “weak AI” — which is focused more on building tools for helping humans in their work rather than on replacing them. This is clearly the claim of robot manufacturers such as Rethink Robotics and Universal Robots. However weak AI, or its associated technology, machine learning, is becoming an integral component of automation – and it is this automation, something that previously may have been called Business Process Automation that may explain the high rate of joblessness in many advanced countries some four years into the recovery from recession.
First of all I think Larry Summers gets much right, especially with respect to how many people are unemployed and have been displaced by a multiple of factors, of which robotics is one of them, albeit not a major factor (yet).
When people talk about the displacement of jobs brought about by the development of robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, they have a tendency to leave out the capabilities and flexibility of people and to attribute a certain amount of agency to the technology itself.
In a few decades, twenty or thirty years — or sooner – robots and their associated technology will be as ubiquitous as mobile phones are today, at least that is the prediction of Bill Gates; and we would be hard-pressed to ﬁnd a roboticist, automation expert or economist who could present a strong case against this.