Do Robots Cause Inequality?

“Ever since the Industrial Revolution, people have worried about machines taking jobs away from humans,” Fast Company reports.

“Fears about employment track with every new technology, from the first automated weaving looms in the 1820s to the dawn of the Internet 20 years ago. But most people would agree that advances today create a new form of threat to work. Robots and other artificially intelligent beings are a different order of machine—less appliances that make things easier, more a wrench in the very wheel of life.”

“Various studies of the impact of robots paint a depressing picture of the future. For instance, one paper from researchers at Oxford University predicts that 47% of U.S. jobs are at “high risk” of computerization over the next two decades. All manner of positions could fall by the wayside, including jobs in transport and logistics, construction, mining, food preparation, and the police force. Even roles you might think of as “high value”—like doctors and lawyers—could be undermined that study found.”

A recent paper from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University argues that the information technology revolution has changed the economic landscape more than almost anyone realizes.

In fact, the authors argue that the wealth redistribution we are seeing towards the top 1% today is directly related to the automation enabled by information technology, but very little of the value created by this automation is trickling down to the other 99%, especially those with low-paying jobs or without jobs.

A similar discussion at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business looked at the rise of robots and its effect on labor markets:

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