For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Robots and AI at work: the prospects for singularity"

by Upchurch, Martin (2018)


This paper seeks to address emerging debates and controversies on the impact of robots and artificial intelligence on the world of work. Longer term discussions of technological ‘singularity’ are considered alongside the socio‐technical and economic constraints on the application of robotics and AI . Evidence of robot ‘take‐up’ is gathered from reports of the International Federation of Robotics and from case vignettes reported elsewhere. In assessing the contemporary relationship between singularity, robotics and AI , the article reflects briefly on the two ‘tests’ of artificial ‘intelligence’ proposed by the pioneer computer scientist Alan Turing, and comments on the efficacy of his ‘tests’ in contemporary applications. The paper continues by examining aspects of public policy and concludes that technological singularity is far from imminent.

Key Passage

Predictions of the end of the human job because of replacement by robots and AI are lacking in sufficient analysis and evidence that cover the technical, social and economic effects. References to the 1920s/1930s, 1950s, 1970s and 1990s suggest that predictions of emerging technological singularity proved to be false dawns. Many of the ‘end of work’ scenarios, from J. M. Keynes, through Toffler, Gorz and Mason rest their case on ever expanding productivity resulting from computerisation, information technology, digitalisation or robotics/AI. Yet, aside from the ‘Golden Age’ of the 1950s and 1960s, we see declining rather than increasing productivity as the new technologies become embedded. (p.215)


Artificial Intelligence, New Technology, Technology, Robotics, Automation


Robots, Automation

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