The robot equipment industry has one word for the alarmist articles and television news programs that predict a robot is about to steal your job: Fiddlesticks!
Well, that wasn’t actually the word used this week at the Automate 2013 trade show held here through Thursday, but the sentiment was the same. During a presentation on Monday, Henrik I. Christensen, the Kuka Chair of Robotics at Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Computing, sharply criticized a recent“60 Minutes” report on automation that was based on the work of the M.I.T. economists Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson.
The two economists in 2011 wrote “Race Against the Machine,” a book that renewed the debate about the relationship between the pace of automation and job growth. They argue that the pace of automation is accelerating and that robotics is pushing into new areas of the work force like white-collar jobs that were previously believed to be beyond the scope of computers.
During his talk, Dr. Christensen said that the evidence indicated that the opposite was true. While automation may transform the work force and eliminate certain jobs, it also creates new kinds of jobs that are generally better paying and that require higher-skilled workers.
“We see today that the U.S. is still the biggest manufacturing country in terms of dollar value,” Dr. Christensen said. “It’s also important to remember that manufacturing produces more jobs in associated areas than anything else.”
An official of the International Federation of Robotics acknowledged that the automation debate had sprung back to life in the United States, but he said that America was alone in its anxiety over robots and automation.
To buttress its claim that automation is not a job killer but instead a way for the United States to compete against increasingly advanced foreign competitors, the industry group reported findings on Tuesday that it said it would publish in February. The federation said the industry would directly and indirectly create from 1.9 million to 3.5 million jobs globally by 2020.
The federation held a news media event at which two chief executives of small American manufacturers described how they had been able to both increase employment and compete against foreign companies by relying heavily on automation and robots.
via The New York Times – JOHN MARKOFF
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