Presented by:

Robots Not a Threat to Jobs: Rodney Brooks

July 29, 2016      

Rodney Brooks is on record about how fears towards artificial intelligence (AI) are overblown.

Brooks, who is founder, chairman and CTO of Rethink Robotics and co-founder of iRobot, has called AI “very narrow tools” that “don’t have the intentionality, really, even of an insect, let a lone a small mammal.”

It’s safe to say Brooks has that same mentality when it comes to robots replacing humans in the workforce. In an interview with GE Reports, Brooks said that “we’re undervaluing workers when we say that robots are replacing them. We’re undervaluing an ordinary person’s intelligence.”

Related: 10 Jobs Robots Will Never Steal

Robotics Trends has reprinted some of the interview below. Read GE Report’s full interview with Brooks here:

Are there common misperceptions about robots and their impact on workers?
When I was a kid, we had hand drills. An electric drill is much easier. It increases the productivity of home contractors. So from one point of view, it’s taking away jobs because you need fewer people to do the same amount of remodeling. But I don’t think anyone thinks, “Electric drills are horrible. They’re taking jobs from workers.”

I’ve never seen a contractor say, “I don’t believe in electric drills. I want to do it the old-fashioned way when it took me minutes to drill a hole.”

I see these robots as tools that increase productivity and are more pleasant.

What is your response to the idea that robots are replacing humans?

That’s a common trope, but in practice that’s not what we’re seeing – in the same way that we don’t see tractors as conflicting with backbreaking labor in farms.

The robot can’t do everything a person can do – just like an electric drill doesn’t replace a contractor. Robots aren’t dexterous. They can only do certain things, and they’re letting the person do the more cognitive parts.

We’re undervaluing workers when we say that robots are replacing them. We’re undervaluing an ordinary person’s intelligence.

The debate about robots taking our jobs won’t come to an end anytime soon, but the majority of Americans think that within 50 years robots and computers will do much of the work currently done by humans, according to a recent poll from the Pew Research Center.

Researchers at Oxford University conducted a similar study and shared information about the jobs that will be easy and difficult for robots to steal. Any job that requires cleverness, negotiation, and constant interaction with humans will be tough to replace. The easiest job to replace? Telemarketers, and that’s already being done.