Robots Are Coming
Considering the societal implications of the robotics revolution.
es the old technology, which in turn
causes worker displacement. While in
the past the electrification revolution
increased the worker’s wages twofold,
hence it increased the size of the middle class, the information revolution
did not have the same effect. In reality,
the middle class has shrunken!
Even Henry Ford in the 1930s un-
derstood that in order to benefit from
the new technology (assembly lines) he
had to create a middle class that could
afford to purchase his cars. But more
Hence, it behooves the responsible
scientists and IT practitioners (es-
pecially robotics workers) to exam-
ine the issues and think about what
should be done to create a just, fair,
and democratic society. While ro-
bots can replace not only the manual
work but can combine the manual
work with intellectual work, the fun-
damental question is: How to distrib-
ute the benefits of this work?
In this Viewpoint, I examine the
social and economic consequences of
the third revolution, which combines
information and communication technologies with robotics.
First, let us acknowledge a few facts:
Fact 1: Progress and technological innovation are not going to stop.
In fact, robotics is primed to develop
even faster than thus far, because of
convergence of faster, more powerful computers, new lighter materials,
more powerful sensors, easy connectivity and wireless networks and many
other factors. Bill Gates, in his January
2007 Scientific American article “A Ro-
bot in Every Home,” wrote that robot-
ics development state was where the
computer industry was in 1970s. Of
course since 2007, great progress has
been made, especially in the automo-
tive and electronics industries. Predic-
tions for the service industry for 2015
are very optimistic.
Fact 2: Robots and intelligent systems are and will improve productivity just as it happened in the previous technological revolutions, when
horse power was replaced by steam
engines that in turn were replaced by
Fact 3: As in previous industrial revolutions, the new technology replac-