Robot Reality Check: They Create Wealth—and Jobs
Economists say automation is the key to next boom, and the U.S. is falling behind
Robots may be coming for our jobs. But a growing body of evidence suggests that workers have everything to gain from welcoming them.
The more robots a country has, the higher its gross domestic product and, on average, the richer its citizens. On the other hand, a country that resists automation loses out not just on wealth creation but on new jobs as well.
This might seem bonkers given the reasonable fear that computers, robots and AI could wipe out half of all jobs in the next 20 years. It also might seem foolhardy from the perspective of a company’s leaders, since not all robots are suited for all jobs, and underused robots are costlier than a seasonal or on-demand human workforce.
The bulk of economists argue that automation ultimately creates more jobs. That might be of little comfort to a Detroit assembly-line worker. Automation does eliminate jobs in the short term, with often painful and even permanent consequences. For the economy as a whole, however, automation drives down prices of goods and services. Humans have so far proved endlessly inventive about how to spend extra money, leading to new businesses—and more jobs.