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Robolution: it’s about human skills, not just technology

The presence of robots in industry and beyond – factories are far from the only place where machines play a key role – is anything but new. In a July 2017 article written for the World Economic Forum, Jeff Morgan of Trinity College, Dublin, expresses amazement at the concern about new wave of automation. “Robots have been taking our jobs for 50 years, so why are we worried?” he writes. Numerous recent works point the supposed dangers of digital technologies and the arrival of robots in our homes and especially in companies. Many scholars base their pessimism on philosophical analyses (our possible addiction to machines or even our enslavement) or more economic perspectives (the end of Schumpeter’s “creative destruction”, according to which new sectors and jobs replace those made obsolete by technical progress). However, there is reason to be optimistic that the consequences of automation will not be determined by the technologies themselves, but rather by the choices we make in how they’re used. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of the Oxford Martin School concluded in 2013 that 47% of US jobs were threatened by automation. More recently, a study by the OECD put forward the figure of 9%, based on the awareness that new jobs would be created at the same time. According to futurists, the phenomenon will become a structuring element of the economy in the years to come. Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson call this the “second age of the machine”, an expression that confirms the fact that the new generation of robots are radically different from those that came before. That is why we can speak about the “fourth industrial revolution” or “robolution”. Read More: The Conversation

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