REPOST: Is Technology Really Going to Destroy More Jobs Than Ever Before?

It is a question most economists constantly have contrasting opinions on, but what is an absolute fact is that technology has a huge ability to transform the way we accomplish specific tasks. Will it ever replace human skills in certain roles? Perhaps… but not all. Read more on futurism.com:

You’ve probably heard that a robot is going to take your job. It’s an oft-repeated refrain, heralded in article headlines and speeches from luminaries such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. Some experts predict that anywhere from 38 to 57 percent of jobs could be automated in the next few decades, depending on who you ask, and the jobs aren’t limited to any one industry. Automation threatens to eliminate or limit jobs such as waitstaff, truck drivers, factory workers, accountants, cashiers, and retail employees, according to a recent report from PBS.

But to other experts, these apocalyptic predictions are overblown. Even worse — they fear that the warnings themselves could slow the progress of innovation, leaving society worse off.

Two economists from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) decided to clear up the debate once and for all. In May, Robert Atkinson and John Wu published a report titled “False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850–2015.” By analyzing data about occupational trends from the United States Census over the past 165 years, the duo concluded that those dark predictions of future employment are based on faulty logic and incorrect analyses.

For their report, the researchers focused on identifying increases or decreases in occupations that could be attributed to technological innovations. For example, the significant increase in the number of automobile repair workers following the production of the Model T and the decrease in the number of household workers following the invention of the washing machine were both identified as examples of technology-caused change. The researchers do admit in the paper that this method of determining whether technology affected the growth or decline of an occupation was “clearly a judgement call and subject to errors.”

Based on this methodology, Atkinson and Wu reached three primary conclusions. One: that the total number of jobs has changed very little over the past 20 years. Two: Growth in existing industries has made up for jobs lost to automation (example: a factory replaced workers with machines on the production side, but invested the money it saved into new jobs in sales and marketing). Three: Between 2010 to 2015, the U.S. lost the fewest jobs to automation.

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