Amid all the job losses of the Great Recession, there is one category of worker that the economic disruption has been good for: nonhumans.
From self-service checkout lines at the supermarket to industrial robots armed with saws and taught to carve up animal carcasses in slaughter-houses, these ever-more-intelligent machines are now not just assisting workers but actually kicking them out of their jobs.
Automation isn’t just affecting factory workers, either. Some law firms now use artificial intelligence software to scan and read mountains of legal documents, work that previously was performed by highly paid human lawyers.
“Robots continue to have an impact on blue-collar jobs, and white-collar jobs are under attack by microprocessors,” says Edward Leamer, an economics professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, a survey of the U.S. and California economies. Leamer says the recession permanently wiped out 2.5 million jobs. U.S. gross domestic product has climbed back to pre-recession levels, meaning we’re producing as much as before, only with 6 percent fewer workers. To be sure, robotics are not the only job killers out there, with outsourcing stealing far more gigs than automation.
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