Robots Will Be The New Illegal Immigrants, Economists Say

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The robotic labor revolution is coming quickly, and the workforce may not be able to adapt without long periods of unemployment, according to economists at the Bank of England.

“Economists should seriously consider the possibility that millions of people may be at risk of unemployment, should these technologies be widely adopted,” BOE economists Mauricio Armellini and Tim Pike wrote in a post on Bank Underground, a blog for bank employees, Wednesday.

Artificial intelligence (AI) “threatens to transform entire industries and sectors,” the authors write, arguing that with the speed of industries adopting technological developments won’t give the labor force time to adjust.

The U.S. stands to lose 80 million jobs to automation, another BOE economist estimated in 2015.

“The potential for simultaneous and rapid disruption, coupled with the breadth of human functions that AI might replicate, may have profound implications for labor markets,” the economists wrote.

Machines have started replacing workers in finance and service sectors. In the fast food industry, McDonald’s and Wendy’s have started replacing human cashiers with automatic kiosks. (RELATED: McDonald’s Launching Dispenser That Spits Out Big Macs)

Many economists point to other industrial revolutions to argue that new technologies don’t lead to massive unemployment, but the robot revolution is different.

The robot labor revolution will be different from past disruptive technologies — like the printing press, the steam engine that replaced coaches, or the change from horse and buggy to the automobile — because today, new technology is adopted at a rapid rate, and AI has so many applications.

“However, this possibly underestimates the very different nature of the technological advances currently in progress, in terms of their much broader industrial and occupational applications and their speed of diffusion.”

“It would be a mistake, therefore, to dismiss the risks associated with these new technologies too lightly,” they said.

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