Annual Work Foundation debate examines robots, jobs

Work Foundation 2013 Annual Debate

The Work Foundation’s annual debate, held yesterday at its headquarters in London, examined a hot topic in the robotics industry: Will robots steal our jobs?

It’s a topic that has been in the news frequently in recent months, and you can find a roundup of articles on both sides of the issue here.

The British not-for-profit think tank, which focuses on the future of work, put the question to a five-person panel moderated by freelance science writer Anjana Ahuja. She spoke to Geoff Mulgan, CEO of Nesta; Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading; Geetu Bharwaney, founder of EI World; Hannah Maslen, research fellow in ethics at the University of Oxford; and Neil Lee, head of the socio-economic center at The Work Foundation.

“The public imagination has been so dominated by the idea of robotics for 100 years that often we don’t see them clearly,” Mulgan said at the outset of the debate.

The panelists attempted to take a balanced look at what robots offer, and the nearly two-hour conversation was recorded and is linked below. Overall, the speakers shared a less dystopian view of the future than some, concluding that robotics would inevitably cause some disruption to labor markets but remains unlikely to cut out humans altogether.

“The next wave of robotics, the next wave of enhanced humans, what it’s not going to do is steal all the jobs,” said Lee. “There will be jobs, we’ll just be doing different things.”

Mulgan summed up the debate by saying that neither “Pollyannaish” or “fatalistic” views of robotics were as helpful as asking how to get the best out of new technologies and shape laws and policies so that they serve us.

You can listen below or read more at The Work Foundation’s website.

[ photo courtesy of The Work Foundation ]

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