Robot economy and technological unemployment

The latest from Robot Economy (yes, that's a real thing. check it out here) takes an interesting look back on the dawn of the information age, going as far back as the computer's birth:

On March 28, 1955, Time magazine reported on a new generation of machinery called computers. The cover featured a drawing of IBM’s Thomas Watson, Jr. in front of a cartoonish robot drawn by Boris Artzybasheff, over a headline that read, “Clink. Clank. Think.” 

Time equated the IBM computer with the advance of civilization. “The prospects for mankind are truly dazzling,” the article said. “Automation of industry will mean new reaches of leisure, new wealth, new dignity for the laboring man.”

The original reporting of the computer isn't all too different from John Maynard Keynes' Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. That essay from Keynes spawned the theory of technological unemployment, the notion that unemployment is produced due to our discover of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour. 

There are two sides of the coin in this argument. 

1) Technology automates tasks and responsibilities otherwise fulfilled by human resources, and this results in job outsourcing. 

The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports 200 million unemployed people worldwide in 2014. Robot Economy makes a soft argument that the bulk of jobs employed are coming from banks, insurance companies, travel agents, and retail. And most of these service industries rely heavily on software automation to run repetitive tasks. 

2) The productivity output gained from technology actually opens up working hours to be filled by information workers, resulting in more job opportunities.

In defense of the second argument are the 76 companies that have implemented robots and also increased employees by over 294,000 over the last 3 years. In this stat pointed out by Robot Economy. robots are defined as a mechanical hardware and software device that incorporates movement/action. Folks like Amazon have multiplied employees by a factor of four over the past three years, though I'm sure not all jobs created at the company can be directly attributed to robotics, with needs in other areas of the company. 

Bottom Line (at least, according to RobotEconomics): software eats jobs; robotics creates jobs. 

Not that this is new or groundbreaking, but in terms of skillsets desired, accessing a high level of creativity is more valuable than ever and robot-proof, so to speak.