At a time when the Robotic Industries Association is reporting record growth, a recent Pew survey suggests that robots may eventually replace both blue-collar and white-collar workers. According to the association, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whether robots are going to steal our jobs or not, the industry is certainly having a lot of success convincing businesses to buy them.
Late last month, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) reported that a record number of robots sold in North America during the first six months of this year. That’s more than 14,000 in all—a 30 percent increase in the number sold compared to the same period last year. Those sales drove $788 million in revenue over the period.
While we often hear that robots are job killers, just the opposite is true. Robots save and create jobs.
Great for the industry, of course. But dulling the good news on the sales front was a report from the Pew Research Internet Project highlighting statistics from its Future of the Internet survey. Most of the 1,896 respondents, identified as experts by researchers, expected robots and artificial intelligence to play a much larger role in day-to-day life by 2025. But most concerning for the robotics industry is that 48 percent of the respondents believe that robots will displace many blue-collar and white-collar workers, adding to income inequality.
Not a fun stat to fight if you’re in the robotics industry. Of course, sites like Recode, NBC News, Salon, and Vice Motherboard were ready to pounce. (On the plus side, at least, robots are getting cuter, according to The Verge, so when they steal our jobs, they’ll do it with smiles on their inanimate faces.)
But RIA was ready too, with a news release that predated Pew’s report by nearly a week.
“In 2010, after one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, unemployment in the U.S. was nearing 10 percent,” RIA President Jeff Burnstein said in a statement. “Since then, amidst record years for robot sales, unemployment has steadily fallen toward pre-recessionary levels. The unemployment rate reached 6.1 percent in June of this year, the lowest it has been since September of 2008.”
He added: “While we often hear that robots are job killers, just the opposite is true. Robots save and create jobs.”
Unless they rise up and kill us all. Then we might be in trouble.