We Might Be All Wrong About Robots Taking Our Jobs

"It’s true that robots are taking away some jobs, but at the same time they’re creating lots of new jobs," one economist says.

For those of us worried that robots are coming for our jobs, economist Dr. Erik Brynjolfsson offers words of comfort: Bots actually may create new employment opportunities.

Brynjolfsson discussed how new technologies may influence future jobs in an interview (above) with Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, during the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year. McAfee and Brynjolfsson are co-authors of The Second Machine Age.

"It's true that robots are taking away some jobs, but at the same time they're creating lots of new jobs," said Brynjolfsson, director of the Initiative. "The thing that's different is whether or not the new job creation is keeping in balance with the old job creation, and there's no economic law that says that's automatically going to happen."

In a report to Congress last month, White House economists forecast that there is an 83 percent chance that workers earning less than $20 per hour will lose their jobs to robots. Another projection, made by the World Economic Forum in January, suggests that robots will replace 5 million workers by 2020.

But in order for us not to see the effects of possible job loss, new jobs need to emerge at the same time that artificial intelligence replaces the old jobs.

"So, there's a grain of truth to this idea that technology is eliminating jobs, but that's a misunderstanding of the essence of what's going on," Brynjolfsson said. "It's not that the technology is doing it. It's that we've been using technology to automate jobs and create jobs, and those have not been in balance."