The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson pleas for a little sanity when discussing the future of robots and humans. Robots are still behind humans in things that matter:
As robots move off the factory floor in the next 20 years, the effect on well-being and income will be complicated and impossible to predict. On the one hand, we should root for more automation. More robotics in the hospital, for example, could make surgeries cheaper and safer. But the mass-market depends on our workers also being our consumers. What does it mean when more work is done by machines that don’t consume anything? Where does the money go, if not to the lucky owners of the robots themselves? If tomorrow’s robots are smarter than people — not just high-school graduates, but also college graduates — what happens to the incentive to invest in education? Should we respond by giving each new born a check? … a stock portfolio!? … a robot of her own?!
These are fun and scary ideas, and they’re fun and scary to think about. But let’s calm our warm-blooded nerves by remembering that the current stock of humanoid robots is still remarkably primitive, as Brynjolfsson and McAfee acknowledge themselves. They look creepy. They struggle with people skills. They fall down stairs. They’re bad at problem-solving. They’re not very creative.