When robots rule the world


The idea that computers rather than people could make decisions about other people’s intentions in the workplace that I wrote about recently – an IBM security tool can flag “disgruntled employees” – may be the tip of an evolutionary iceberg that spotlights a wider and deeper issue facing developed countries like the US and many of the EU member states.

The Financial Times reports on how the US economy is becoming steadily more automated and how manufacturing employment is shrinking (and doing so worldwide, the FT notes) while manufacturing activity rises.

[…] During Mr Obama’s presidency, IBM’s Watson has proved computers can outfox the most agile minds, drones have become America’s weapon of choice, the driverless car is now a reality and the word “app” has been detached from its origin. No longer the realm of science fiction, the rise of robots now poses the central economic dilemma of the Obama era.

See a fuller assessment in this FT Alphaville video discussion.

I wonder how much such workplace automation is behind unemployment statistics for the European Union such as reported by the EU Observer yesterday:

Eurostat estimates 25.926 million men and women in the EU were unemployed in December 2012, with 18.715 million of them in the euro area. In both zones, rates have risen markedly compared with December 2011, from 10.7% to 11.7% in the eurozone and from 10.0% to 10.7% in the EU.

The eye-popping metric – almost 26 million people across the EU (total population over 503 million) are without a job.

The reality may not be dystopian but it’s not a pretty picture.

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