Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Maybe Robots Are Our Friends?

June 10th, 2015 / in big science, Research News / by Helen Wright

Lucas, a mobile, dextrous, and social (MDS) robot, is one of many robots working in the new LASR facility. In the Damage Control for the 21st Century research project, robots like Lucas are being used to develop future firefighting capabilities for Navy ships [image courtesy OSTP].

A few month ago we blogged about the on-going robotic debate, Are robots our friends?  This seems to be the question of the year, if not the decade, as digital technology continues to advance. What does this mean for humanity and our workforce?

Recently, the New York Times posted an interesting article with a surprising conclusion which claims that “New Research Says Robots Are Unlikely to Eat Our Jobs.” In the article they discuss a new study out by the McKinsey Global Institute, called “A Labor Market That Works: Connecting Talent With Opportunity in the Digital Age,” which states:

By 2025, McKinsey estimates, these digital talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion a year to global gross domestic product, which would be the equivalent of adding another Britain to the world economy. And the digital tools, the report states, could benefit as many as 540 million people in various ways, including better matches of their skills with jobs, higher wages and shorter stints of unemployment.

The article also mentioned the cover article of the June issue of The Harvard Business Review “Beyond Automation: Strategies for Remaining Gainfully Employed in an Era of Very Smart Machines” in which authors Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby concede the advance of automation, but reframed the situation all together:

What if, rather than asking the traditional question—What tasks currently performed by humans will soon be done more cheaply and rapidly by machines?—we ask a new one: What new feats might people achieve if they had better thinking machines to assist them? Instead of seeing work as a zero-sum game with machines taking an ever greater share, we might see growing possibilities for employment. We could reframe the threat of automation as an opportunity for augmentation.

If this research and these articles are indicative of a shift in mindsets then perhaps we are starting to believe that humans can live in harmony with robots. If anything, this more optimistic view will certainly produce less angst among the population.

Click here to see the full New York Times article and stay tuned for a series of White Papers from the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) on Autonomous Systems that will address many of these same ideas from within specific domains.






Maybe Robots Are Our Friends?