Looking forward from 1983
From (Leontief, Wassily; Duchin, Faye. The Impacts of Automation on Employment, 1963-2000. Final Report, 1984):
[T]he intensive use of automation over the next 20 years will make it possible to conserve about 10 percent of the labor that would have been required to produce the same bills of goods in the absence of increased automation. The impact of automation is specific to different types of work and will involve a significant increase in professionals as a proportion of the labor force and a steep decline in the relative number of clerical workers. Because the direct displacement of production workers by specific items of automated equipment will, at least in the initial stages, be offset by increased investment demand for capital goods, production workers can be expected to maintain their share of the labor force.
From (Kile, F. (2013). Artificial intelligence and society: a furtive transformation. AI & society, 28(1), 107-115.):
A steady decline of less-skilled jobs began with automation. Employment opportunities gradually declined around the globe.
Two recent agricultural developments illustrate this point: (1) One manufacturer announced development of a driverless tractor. (2) Some farms have attached a chip to their cows. The chip monitors milk production, quality, etc. The cows remain in a pasture until they feel the urge to be milked. At that point, each cow goes to a gate which then opens and from that point on, every aspect of milking is automated.
As computing advanced, the need for workers per unit of output declined, though initially output grew fast enough to mask this phenomenon.
From (Autor, D. (2010). The polarization of job opportunities in the US labor market: Implications for employment and earnings. Center for American Progress and The Hamilton Project):
The job opportunities available to males displaced from manufacturing jobs, particularly those displaced at midcareer, are likely to be primarily found in lower-paying service occupations. While these job losses may be primarily attributable to automation of routine production work and growing international competition in manufactured goods rather than to de-unionization per se, the magnitude of the income losses for males is surely magnified by the fact that the job losses are in union-intensive industries.
From (Freeman, R. (2012). Non-nano effects of nanotechnology on the economy. Nanotechnology: Societal Implications—Individual Perspectives, 68.):
For the past 50 years or so, the displacement effect of technological change has exceeded the employment-increasing effect of expansion of production. Employment declined in manufacturing and agriculture, where technological change is most rapid, and shifted toward services, where technological change is modest.
From (Hayes, B. (2009). Automation on the job. Am Sci, 97(1), 10.):
As for economic consequences, worries about unemployment have certainly not gone away—not with job losses in the current recession approaching 2 million workers in the U.S. alone. But recent job losses are commonly attributed to causes other than automation, such as competition from overseas or a roller-coaster financial system. In any case, the vision of a world where machines do all the work and people stand idly by has simply not come to pass.
Predictions about the future
There are too many predictions to list, but I'll pick a few from just one of the above references:
- We’ll automate medicine. I don’t mean robot surgeons, although they’re in the works too. What I have in mind is Internet-enabled, do-it-yourself diagnostics. (Hayes, 2009)
- We'll automate driving. (Hayes, 2009)
- We'll automate warfare. (Hayes, 2009)