There's been a regular stream of articles about robots and automation taking jobs from humans of late. Techcrunch's Jobs, Robots, Capitalism, Inequality and You nicely sums up many of the negatives associated with the technology replacing jobs.
The strange present, we may conclude, is one in which the middle class is slowly being squeezed out of an economy that is gradually dividing into two camps, the few rich and the many poor. Furthermore, “rich” increasingly means “those working in technology.”
A more balanced view of this issue is taken in Fast Company's Are Robots Going to Kill Your Next Job or Create It? It covers both sides of the argument and points out there will be "winners and losers" and doesn't come to a firm conclusion on the overall impact of automation on jobs.
A new study out of England (so new it's not yet available online) suggests that close to half of all current U.S. jobs will be automated over the next 20 years.
This is similar finding to a study that we covered last year in our article The Polarization of Jobs. The authors of that study also felt 40%-50% of U.S. will at risk of being replaced by automation.
A good example of the type of robots entering the market is Throwbot, a small robot being used for survelliance by SWAT teams. Yahoo's Whoa: That Police Officer is a ... Robot does a nice job of describing how Throwbot is used.
It has a good paragraph on the size of the robotics industry:
According to the International Federation of Robotics, 2012 was a banner year for sales. About 160,000 units were sold for $12 billion, the second highest number ever recorded. "All expectations are that the industrial robots market will continue to expand at around 9 percent to 14 percent per year for the rest of this decade," said Frank Tobe, owner and publisher of The Robot Report, which tracks the industry.
We're more optimistic than most about the ability of humans to compete with automation and robots. We were recently encouraged by what's going on in the accounting industry. When we did a series of forecast workshops 3 years with accountants they were very worried about automation hurting their business.
But as we learned in a recent workshop on the future of accounting, the industry now sees automation as an opportunity in addition to being a threat. They see automation as a way to increase productivity, creating more opportunities for the industry to add value through services.
We also continue to believe the the New Artisan Economy will also lead to jobs for humans.
I think the Fast Company article closes with a good quote on this topic:
As we enter the Age of Robotics, the question for you may not be: “Will robots kill more jobs than they create?” But: “Am I the 2013 version of a buggy whip manufacturer?"