Will technological advances help businesses and workers?
Fueled by advances in computer and sensor technology, robots are growing in sophistication and versatility to become an important—and controversial—sector of the world economy. Once largely limited to manufacturing plants, robots now are found in households, offices and hospitals, and on farms and highways. Some believe robots are a job creator, a boon to corporate productivity and profits, and a way to “reshore” American manufacturing that had migrated to countries where labor was cheaper. Others fear that the growing use of robots will wipe out millions of lower-skilled jobs, threatening the economic security of the working poor, fostering social inequality and leading to economic stagnation. Today's managers need to understand how humans and machines can best work together; government and industry must decide how best to manage robots' design, manufacture and use.
Brynjolfsson, Erik, and Andrew McAfee, “Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy,” Digital Frontier Press, 2011. Two members of MIT's Center for Digital Business say the pace of technological development endangers jobs, and call for “restructuring” educational and economic institutions to better prepare the workforce.
Lin, Patrick, Keith Abney and George A. Bekey, eds., “Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics,” The MIT Press, 2011. Essays collected by California Polytechnic State University philosophers and scientists explore ethical, social and policy questions surrounding roboticization, including whether robots merit legal rights or moral consideration.
Nocks, Lisa, “The Robot: The Life Story of a Technology,” Greenwood Press, 2007. A historian of science and technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology traces the history of robotics, from ancient automation to robots in popular culture, but focuses on industrial robots and developments in artificial intelligence.
Condon, Bernard, and Paul Wiseman, Associated Press three-part series: “Recession, tech kill middle-class jobs,” Jan. 23, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Lewis, Colin, “The economic impact of the robotic revolution,” RoboHub, Feb. 19, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Reports and Studies
“World Robotics 2014 Industrial Robots,” (Executive Summary), International Federation of Robotics, Sept. 30, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Christensen, Henrik, et al., “Roadmap for U.S. Robotics: From Internet to Robotics, 2013 Edition,” Robotics Virtual Organization, 2013. A panel of scientists, engineers and business executives describes scenarios in which robotics technology can be applied in manufacturing, health care and other fields to enhance the American economy.
Evans, Dave, “The Internet of Things: How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything,” Cisco, April 2011, http://tinyurl.com/
Frey, Carl Benedikt, and Michael A. Osborne, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?” Oxford Martin School, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Manyika, James, et al., “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy,” McKinsey Global Institute, May 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Mishel, Lawrence, Heidi Shierholz and John Schmitt, “Don't Blame the Robots: Assessing the Job Polarization Explanation of Growing Wage Inequality,” Economic Policy Institute, Nov. 19, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Sachs, Jeffrey, and Laurence Kotlikoff, “Smart Machines and Long-Term Misery,” National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2012, http://tinyurl.com/
The Next Step
Chang, Andrea, “Amazon robots speed customer orders but may lead to fewer workers,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 2, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Hemmadi, Murad, “Clearpath Robotics is changing the world with its life-saving robots,” Canadian Business, Nov. 21, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Kaufman, Alexander, “Fast-Food Workers Could Face Robot ‘Armageddon,’” The Huffington Post, Aug. 12, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Knight, Meribah, “At Ford's South Side plant, the rise of the machines,” Crain's Chicago Business, Nov. 12, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Luk, Lorraine, “Foxconn Plans to Make Its Own Industrial Robots,” The Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Young, Angelo, “Nike Unloads Contract Factory Workers, Showing How Automation Is Costing Jobs Of Vulnerable Emerging Market Laborers,” International Business Times, May 20, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Bjerga, Alan, “Record Profits No Job Creator on Farms as Owners Automate,” Bloomberg, Jan. 30, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Inagaki, Kana, “Japan aims to turn robotics into profit,” Financial Times, Oct. 8, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Ngui, Yantoultra, “Malaysia's automation incentives draw mixed feelings from manufacturers,” Reuters, Oct. 17, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Borchers, Callum, “Robot may help fight malaria,” The Boston Globe, May 8, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Hodson, Hal, “Baxter the robot brings his gentle touch to novel jobs,” New Scientist, July 23, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Howe, Robert, Aaron Dollar and Mark Claffee, “Inexpensive, Durable Plastic Hands Let Robots Get a Grip,” IEEE Spectrum, Nov. 21, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation
1775 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20036
Think tank that explores issues affecting public debate and policymaking in robotics and other areas of technology.
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 32 Vassar St., Cambridge MA 02139
Research and training institution.
Congressional Robotics Caucus Advisory Committee
c/o Erica Wissolik, IEEE-USA, 2001 L St., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036
Provides information on research and developments in robotics and related technologies to members of Congress.
International Federation of Robotics
Lyoner St. 18, 60528 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Worldwide trade association for the robotics industry that collects statistics and market data; sponsors annual International Symposium on Robotics.
National Robotics Initiative
National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230
Federal interagency group that coordinates U.S. government support of robotics research in areas of national interest.
The Reshoring Initiative
21110 Buffalo Run, Kildeer, IL 60047
An industry coalition that supports the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States.
Robotic Industries Association
900 Victors Way, Suite 140, Ann Arbor, MI, 48108
Trade association for North American robot manufacturers and users, and companies that support the industry.
The Robotics Institute
Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
Robotics research and teaching institution.