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May 25, 2015

The Robots Are Coming! The Robots Are Coming!

In the past, the story goes, as technology displaced some forms of work, the innovation eventually created new, mostly better jobs: fewer buggy-whip makers, more automobile assemblers; fewer telephone operators, more people designing iPhones and working in Apple genius bars. Technology made society richer on average, and employment took care of itself. But no longer, according to a spate of commentators. Why? Because the pace of displacement has accelerated, and it is reaching well into sectors once thought safe. And automation will only breed more automation. This story is mostly malarkey. Not the automation part; technological displacement of human work is indeed accelerating. The part that is malarkey is the assumption that high rates of human unemployment must necessarily result. They will indeed result if we trust “the invisible hand” to do the transition.

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