I have been looking back over the links to news articles I’ve been collecting together about automation and I’ve been struck in particular by how the UK newspaper The Guardian has been running at least one story a week concerning automation in the last few months (see their “AI” category for examples, or the list below). Many are spurred from reports and press releases about particular things, so it’s not like they’re unique in pushing these narratives but it is striking, not least because lots of academics (that I follow anyway) share these stories on Twitter and it becomes a self-reinforcing, somewhat dystopian (‘rise of the robots’) narrative. I’m sure that we all adopt appropriate critical distance when reading such things but… there is a sense in which the ‘robots are coming for our jobs’ sort of arguments are being normalised and sedimented without a great deal of public critical reflection.
We might ask in response to the automation taking jobs arguments: who says? (quite often: management consultants and think tanks) and: how do they know? It seems to me that the answers to those questions are pertinent and probably less clear, and so interesting(!), than one might imagine.
Here’s a selection of the Graun’s recent automation coverage:
- Rise of the robots and all the lonely people (13/12/17)
- Don’t like talking to people? Automation will save us from the hellscape of human interaction (13/12/17)
- Robots can set us free and reverse decline, says Labour’s Tom Watson (10/12/17)
- The rise of the robots brings threats and opportunities [letters] (26/11/17)
- Meet your new cobot: is a machine coming for your job? (25/11/17)
- The Guardian view on productivity: the robots are coming [Editorial] (25/11/17)
- Philip Hammond pledges driverless cars by 2021 and warns people to retrain (23/11/17)
- From Peppa Pig to Trump, the web is shaping us. It’s time we fought back (17/11/17)
- Truck drivers like me will soon be replaced by automation. You’re next (17/11/17)
- The machine age is upon us. We must not let it grind society to pieces [by Chuka Amunna MP] (14/11/17)
- Swift action needed to set framework for AI and machine learning [Letter/op-ed] (10/11/17)