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Lost Your Job? Blame the Robots, MIT Economist Says

wall-eThe U.S. job market is in the doldrums and the American middle class is shrinking. But instead of blaming the President, illegal immigrants, or karmic forces, one MIT economist says we should blame robots.

In a study conducted during the spring, economist David Autor found that manufacturing is still strong in the U.S., which is encouraging. What's not so encouraging, however, is the fact that robots are doing a lot of the automated work once given to human beings. Autor, in collaboration with David Dorn of the Center for Monetary and Financial Studies in Madrid, found that some jobs are more susceptible to robot takeover than others -- namely, those that involve what the authors call "routine" tasks. As a result, American wages have become increasingly polarized, since many routine jobs in banking, manufacturing and medicine can now be done by robots. The Economist points out that the robo-takeover could become even more problematic in the future, as more domestic bots may negate the need to hire unskilled or uneducated domestic workers.

This kind of technological takeover, of course, isn't anything new. The Industrial Revolution, for example, put a lot of artisans and weavers out of work, in the same way that the Internet has put a lot of journalists out of work. The difference, however, is that both the Industrial Revolution and the Internet created vast new industries, which still relied heavily on human capital. Robots, by comparison, threaten to replace human capital altogether, save for those select few who actually know how to make them. Ultimately, though, robots, like any other new technology, will put an even higher premium on education and skilled labor. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is actually a good thing for humanity.

Tags: economy, jobs, manufacturing, manufacturing jobs, ManufacturingJobs, robots, study, top