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Aug. 6, 2014, 10 a.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: www.pewinternet.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   August 6, 2014

A new report from Pew Research and Elon University tries to tackle the role of algorithms, digital agents, robots, and the like in the job market of 2025. (It’s part of a series of reports from Pew looking at the future of the Internet.)

Rather than your standard data-rich Pew report, this one is about asking various experts about what they think the future will hold:

This report is a compilation of opinions and predictions shared by nearly 1,900 respondents about the evolution of emerging networked technologies and their likely impact on daily life. The experts responded to the following question:

The economic impact of robotic advances and AI — Self-driving cars, intelligent digital agents that can act for you, and robots are advancing rapidly. Will networked, automated, artificial intelligence (AI) applications and robotic devices have displaced more jobs than they have created by 2025?

The results were an even split, with 52 percent envisioning a future in which robots and digital agents do not displace more jobs than they create and 48 percent saying they will displace significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers,” said Aaron Smith, a senior researcher with Pew and co-author of the report. “A number of the respondents warned that this aspect of technical evolution will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable and the possibility of breakdowns in the social order.”

What about media jobs? They don’t get a ton of attention in the report, but there’s this from Ben Shneiderman, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland:

Robots and AI make compelling stories for journalists, but they are a false vision of the major economic changes. Journalists lost their jobs because of changes to advertising, professors are threatened by MOOCs, and store salespeople are losing jobs to Internet sales people. Improved user interfaces, electronic delivery (videos, music, etc.), and more self-reliant customers reduce job needs. At the same time someone is building new websites, managing corporate social media plans, creating new products, etc. Improved user interfaces, novel services, and fresh ideas will create more jobs.

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