Kudos to Erik Sofge, Boston-based reporter for Popular Science Magazine. His recent story, “Sex Bots, Robo-Maids, and other Sci-Fi Myths of the Coming Robot Economy,” cleverly pokes holes where they’re most needed.
The Pew Research Center’s “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs” report was released August 6th and has received much media attention. A good portion of that attention has been focused on jobs and sexbots, the latter barely mentioned but indicative of the hyped headlines about the report.
The Pew Research Center polled technology “experts” about how automation will impact the economy by 2025. The report summarizes their findings from the 1,896 respondents.
Sofge pokes fun at those forecasts “revealing how profoundly difficult it is to talk about robots without making irrational, unsupported assumptions.”
Here, finally, is proof that the entire discussion of the so-called robot economy, with its predictions of vast, permanent employment rates and glacial productivity gains, is nothing more than a wild guess. Look closely at this report [the Pew report], and you’ll find the primary myths that have turned the debate over the robotized workplace into a debacle.
One respondent to the Pew report predicted that “Robotic sex partners will be a commonplace, although the source of scorn and division, the way that critics today bemoan selfies as an indicator of all that’s wrong with the world.” Sofge points out that sex bots, at present, don’t really exist notwithstanding hundreds of articles (with hyped headlines) on the few companies attempting to produce them (so far unsuccessfully).
Regarding jobs, 48% of the respondents envisioned a future in which robots and digital agents have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers—with many expressing concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality and breakdowns in the social order. However, 52% expect that technology will not displace more jobs than it creates by 2025. To be sure, this group anticipates that many jobs currently performed by humans will be substantially taken over by robots or digital agents but they have faith that human ingenuity will create new jobs, industries, and ways to make a living, just as it has been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
Sofge’s 2,300-word article is worth reading if for no other reason than gaining a better understanding of the complexities of the robotics industry and bringing new robotic solutions to the marketplace. It’s a fun read.
PHOTO CREDIT: Image courtesy of Elysium: The Art of the Film, @ 2013 Tristar Pictures