An emerging popular consensus is that the robots are coming for our jobs. Pundits warn that rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence will bring about another industrial revolution that will elbow out millions of workers as automated systems become more efficient and sophisticated.
A new report issued this week argues that we should cancel the alarmism.
Drawing on census data, the analysis concludes that we're currently in an era of historically low “job churn” in the labor market due to automation — and that isn't likely to change anytime soon.
Job churn refers to the rate at which new occupations are created as old ones disappear.
Robert D. Atkinson and John Wu of the non-profit think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), which receives some of its funding from the tech sector, authored the report.
Atkinson and Wu conclude that automation is actually far less disruptive today than at other periods since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
“The levels of churn in the last 20 years,” they write, “have been just 38 percent of the levels from 1950 to 2000, and 42 percent of the levels from 1850 to 2000.”
And, the authors point out, the last two decades included the dot-com crash, the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the Great Recession, and the emergence of new technologies — all of which were purportedly greater shocks to the US labor market than anything prior.
The authors reviewed US census data compiled by the University of Minnesota going back to 1850 and compared changes in occupational job levels from decade to decade.