NY Times Author Says Robots Will Have Disruptive Impact on Jobs

by David Menzies

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The machines are coming -- and they want our jobs. That's according to New York Times bestselling author Martin Ford who addressed the crowd at the 31st Annual Emerging Issues Forum: FutureWork at the Raleigh Convention Center hosted by the North Carolina State University (NCSU) Institute for Emerging Issues. Ford, a computer designer, software developer, and author of both Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future and The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future painted a somewhat bleak outlook for the future of the U.S. economy as it grapples with the onset of machines beginning to replace not only manpower but brainpower.

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Ford's presentation title: The Rise of Artificial Intelligence - Implications for Jobs and the Economy foreshadowed his storyline, which followed the original forays of machines into the workplace to replace manual laborers on assembly lines. Fast-forward to 2016, a time at which machines are being developed to learn in addition to simply functioning specific tasks, holding much more potential for disruption as artificial intelligence becomes ubiquitous.

As this type of technology continues to climb the skills ladder, Ford explained, it is reducing the number of job opportunities for college graduates in white collar jobs as well as blue collar ones. With the U.S. economy losing its elasticity overall, Ford put forth the solution of developing an enhanced safety net which would decouple jobs from income. Ideas such as a guaranteed basic income, which Ford admitted is not politically digestible in today's climate, might become a necessity 30 years down the road as AI is adopted more and more throughout multiple manufacturing and general business sectors.

Ford's "canary in a coal mine" discussion echoed the words of NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson who opened the FutureWork conference, talking about how the North Carolina economy is reaching a "critical inflection point" where the growth of automation is poised to have a potentially disruptive impact on employment.

Additional  local and national industry experts scheduled to speak on the imminent convergence of job automation and economic impact include North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, Nationally Syndicated Columnist Vivek Wadhwa, International Economist and Futurist Dambisa Moyo, and Youth Entrepreneur and National Tech Prodigy Jaylen Bledsoe.

The event continues throughout Monday at the Convention Center and switches locations to the Hunt Library on the NCSU Centennial Campus on Tuesday, February 9.

For more information or to view a livestream visit https://iei.ncsu.edu/futurework.