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For now, we should worry less about technological unemployment, and more about the role of technology in spreading disinformation. Without a properly functioning public sphere , why bother debating economics in the first place? World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with our Terms of Use.

This article is published in collaboration with Project Syndicate.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum. I accept. Industry Agenda Fourth Industrial Revolution Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Education and Skills These are the jobs robots can't do Man and machine are likely to work closely together in the near future.

Predictions for What if we get things right? Read the series. Most Popular. More on the agenda. Forum in focus. Read more about this project. The film Robot and Frank imagined a near-future where robots could do almost everything humans could. The robot was capable of everything from cooking and cleaning to socialising and, it turned out, burglary.

This kind of science fiction may turn out to be remarkably prescient. As growing numbers of elderly people require care, researchers believe that robots could be one way to address the overwhelming demand.

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But while robots might be able to provide care and, in some cases, social interaction, many wonder if they really are the right solution to this uniquely human issue. Loneliness and social isolation are already problems for many seniors and are even linked to cognitive decline and a higher death rate.

With the population of seniors expected to rise, many worry that experiences of loneliness will increase, especially if access to care is even more limited.

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But despite concerns, early studies already show that social robots — autonomous robots trained to interact and communicate with humans — really could address issues of care and social interaction. The majority of robotics researchers are largely in favour of introducing robotic technology on a wider scale and believe it could reduce loneliness and increase independence in elderly patients. However, many strongly recommend carefully balancing the care benefits against the ethical costs.

A class of social robots — mobile robotic telepresence MRT systems — have already been shown to generate positive social interactions with elderly patients. MRTs are essentially video screens on wheels raised to head height that can be controlled remotely using a simple smartphone app. Research has shown that people reacted more positively when talking with someone through an MRT than through a regular video call or computer avatar — especially lonely people.

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However, MRTs still require a human operator, which limits the amount of social interaction seniors can have daily. To tackle this, developers worldwide have started creating robot companions programmed with advanced artificial intelligence AI , which can interact with people on their own. Some examples include pet-like companion robots including Aibo and Paro, which are made by Japanese developers, and MiRo, which is manufactured in the UK. Other humanoid robots, such as the Care-O-bot and Pepper, are able to provide more complex and comprehensive care. Robotic dogs introduced in one UK care home this year were reported to bring happiness and comfort to residents.

On the other hand, humanoid robots are already advanced enough to provide much-needed care to elderly people. These robots can pick things up and move independently, and have a more natural, human way of interacting for example, using arm and hand gestures. More advanced versions have additional sensors and devices, including touchscreens.

But for those with age-related hearing loss or vision impairment, having the option to use the touchscreen was indispensable. Humanoid robots are still being developed, so their capabilities are still limited. And studies of humanoid robots have mainly focused on evaluating how well the technology functions without really considering the social impact. There is also a general assumption that it will naturally reduce loneliness.

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Though research into social robots is just beginning, we do know they can provide some solutions to the challenges mounted by ageing populations, and could even help reduce social isolation and loneliness. At this point, humans are still better in providing care and social contact to the elderly, but robots might be able to fill any gaps, especially as technologies continue to improve.

However, before social robots can be fully integrated into care homes, researchers and service provides must address public anxiety and make it clear that robots are designed to assist social workers, not replace them. As long as humans remain in full control to prevent any danger, robots might well be the future of care. Alessandro Di Nuovo is a reader in computational intelligence and robotics at Sheffield Hallam University. This article first appeared on The Conversation theconversation.

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Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. First introduced around , ATMs hit widespread adoption in the late s. But, as economist James Bessen has shown, the number of bank tellers actually rose between and True, the Department of Labor does now predict that the number of tellers will decline by 8 percent over the next decade.

Taking a wider view, Bessen found that of the occupations listed on the census only one—elevator operator—had been rendered obsolete by automation by Of course, if automation is happening much faster today than it did in the past, then historical statistics about simple machines like the ATM would be of limited use in predicting the future. If the rewards of automation were as immense as predicted, companies would be pouring money into new technology.

Investments in software and IT grew more slowly over the past decade than the previous one. And capital investment, according to Mishel and Bivens, has grown more slowly since than in any other postwar period. In that same period, industrial robots were becoming more widespread, the internet seemed to be transforming everything, and AI became really useful for the first time. But something else happened in the global economy right around as well: China entered the World Trade Organization and massively ramped up production. And it was this, not automation, that really devastated American manufacturing.

But just in the period between and , trade with China was responsible for the loss of 2. Nevertheless, automation will indeed destroy many current jobs in the coming decades.

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Over and over again, as vast numbers of jobs have been destroyed, others have been created. Observers then too were convinced that automation would lead to permanent unemployment. Ferry, of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, in If that happens, economic growth will soar and society as a whole will be vastly richer than it is today. Both of these futures are possible. The irony of our anxiety about automation is that if the predictions about a robot-dominated future were to come true, a lot of our other economic concerns would vanish.

A recent study by Accenture, for instance, suggests that the implementation of AI, broadly defined, could lift annual GDP growth in the US by two points to 4.