Will Robots Take Your Job? by Nigel M. de S. Cameron

The Blurb On The Back:

The trend that began with ATMs and do-it-yourself checkouts is moving at lightning speed.  Everything from driving to teaching to the care of the elderly and, indeed, code-writing can now be done by smart machines.  Conventional wisdom says there will be new jobs to replace those we lose – but is it so simple?  And are we ready?

Technology writer and think-tank director Nigel Cameron argues it’s naïve to believe we face a smooth transition.  Whether or not there are “new” jobs, we face massive disruption as the jobs millions of us are doing gets outsourced to machines.  A twenty-first century “rust belt” will rapidly corrode the labour market and affect literally hundreds of different kinds of jobs simultaneously.

Robots won’t design our future – we will.  Yet, shockingly, political leaders and policymakers don’t seem to have this in their line of sight.  So how should we assess and prepare for the risks of this unknown future?

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Nigel M. de S. Cameron is President and CEO of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies and this essay is a timely, fascinating and accessible call to action on the part of policy makers to prepare for the impact that the current rate of technological development will have on employment that had me gripped from beginning to end.

Cameron runs through the fast pace at which machine intelligence and robotics are already taking jobs within the economy with a particular focus on the development of self-driving automobiles and the implications this has for urban design and the logistics industry.  I was particularly interested in the research that he describes on the projected impact of machine intelligence on jobs across the labour market, pointing out that they are projected to affect lawyers and teachers as much as they are taxi and lorry drivers and that the computer developers responsible for the developments could themselves become obsolete.

Also fascinating is his chapter that looks at how fear of being described as a Luddite has prevented people from challenging the assumptions that the loss of jobs in one sector of the market will be offset by the creation of new jobs as a result of the rise of automation.  Cameron also touches on the suggestion that governments should look at universal basic income as a way of offsetting the impact on the labour market, noting that this risks creating further disparity within the market.

Given that this is an essay, it’s impossible for Cameron to set out every element of the debate here but there is an excellent bibliography for those who want to read further on the subject.

All in all I found it a fascinating introduction to a topic that I didn’t know a great deal about and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to start finding out about this topic.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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