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Robot Makers Spread Global Gospel of Automation

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a robot designed by Rethink Robotics

A robot designed by Rethink Robotics to work with people. An industry group said increased automation would lead to millions of new jobs by 2020.

Credit: The New York Times

A book by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) economists that renewed the debate about the relationship between the pace of automation and job growth was challenged at the recent Automate 2013 trade show. The MIT researchers argue that the pace of automation is accelerating and robotics development is taking away jobs from white-collar workers.

However, Georgia Tech roboticist Henrik I. Christensen sharply criticizes the MIT work, saying evidence indicates the exact opposite is true. Although automation may transform the workforce and eliminate certain jobs, he says it also creates new kinds of jobs that are generally better paying and require higher-skilled workers. "We see today that the U.S. is still the biggest manufacturing country in terms of dollar value," Christensen says. "It's also important to remember that manufacturing produces more jobs in associated areas than anything else."

Although the debate over the benefits of automation may be taking place in the U.S., the technology is flourishing overseas. "This is not happening in either Europe or Japan," says International Federation of Robotics chairman Andreas Bauer. The federation released a report showing the U.S. lags Germany, South Korea, and Japan in the density of manufacturing robots employed.

From The New York Times 
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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