Robotics and the Economy

September 25, 2015 • Volume 25, Issue 34
Should workers fear increasing automation?
By Patrick Marshall

Introduction

A robot serves customers at a restaurant in China's (Getty Images/ChinaFotoPress)
A robot serves customers at a restaurant in China's Zhejiang Province. Within 10 years, some experts predict, robots and sophisticated computers will be able to perform nearly half of the work done by humans. (Getty Images/ChinaFotoPress)

Robots and other forms of automation can be found not only on factory assembly lines but also in hospital operating rooms, behind car steering wheels, in offices and on Wall Street trading floors. What's more, some experts say, the capabilities of robots and intelligent machines — computers that can analyze data and act on it autonomously — are improving so rapidly that within 10 years machines could perform nearly half of the work done by humans, and more cheaply. Robotics proponents say automation will improve productivity, lower labor costs and make companies stronger and more competitive with overseas rivals. But automation critics fear robots will put many Americans out of work, cause social upheaval and disrupt entire economic sectors. Meanwhile, the legal system is scrambling to catch up with the fast-growing robotics sector, with experts expressing confusion over who should be responsible when robots go awry and cause physical or economic harm.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Artificial Intelligence
Sep. 25, 2015  Robotics and the Economy
Jan. 23, 2015  Robotic Warfare
Apr. 22, 2011  Artificial Intelligence
Nov. 14, 1997  Artificial Intelligence
Aug. 16, 1985  Artificial Intelligence
May 14, 1982  The Robot Revolution
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Engineering
General Employment and Labor
International Economic Development
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Medical Devices and Technology
Motor Traffic and Roads