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Preparing for the Robot Takeover … Or Not


Friday October 27, 2017

There are many pundits running around saying that robots are going to take our jobs. That’s why an October 19 article in Futurism stands out with the title “Is Technology Really Going to Destroy More Jobs than Ever Before?” Kristin Houser writes that while some experts warn that anywhere from 38 to 57 percent of jobs could be automated in the next few decades, others suggest “these apocalyptic predictions are overblown.” 

Houser digs in to research by two economists, Robert Atkinson and John Wu, who published “False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850–2015.” Atkinson and Wu are from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and they suggest, based on their U.S. Census research, that the predictions that robots will take over the workforce are based on “faulty logic and incorrect analyses.”

“For example, pessimists often assume that robots can do most jobs, when in fact they can’t, or that once a job is lost there are no second-order job-creating effects from increased productivity and spending,” Atkinson and Wu assert in their report. “But the pessimists’ grim assessments also suffer from being ahistorical.”

Atkinson and Wu’s report presents three conclusions:

  1. Contrary to popular perception, the total number of jobs has changed very little in the last 20 years.
  2. Growth in already-existing occupations makes up for any jobs lost to innovation and technology.
  3. Technology is not destroying more jobs than ever. From 2010 to 2015, there were approximately six technology-related jobs created for every 10 lost. According to the research, this is the lowest share of jobs lost to technology since the 1950s.

“Why does this matter?” Atkinson and Wu ask. “Because if opinion leaders continue to argue that we are in unchartered economic territory and warn that just about anyone’s occupation can be thrown on the scrap heap of history, then the public is likely to sour on technological progress, and society will become overly risk averse, seeking tranquility over churn, the status quo over further innovation.”

In short, the researchers warn professionals that ignoring innovation could be the true job killer. For policymakers, Atkinson and Wu suggest that they should “take a deep breath and calm down,” support technology and change in order to encourage creative destruction, and do more to improve labor-market transitions for workers who lose their jobs.

Staying ahead

How are you keeping up with innovations in supply chain and technology? Consider how blockchain might disrupt and, eventually, improve the way supply chains run. While the APICS Dictionary doesn’t yet define “blockchain,” we can turn to Quentin Samelson, senior supply chain consultant in the Electronics Center of Competence of IBM’s Global Business Services. Samelson spoke to attendees at APICS 2017, and defines blockchain as follows: “A new technology that removes cost and complexity from multi-party transactions using a shared, secure, synchronized and immutable ledger.” Samelson also suggests that most companies should be considering blockchain’s benefits. To find out more about this educational session and all the others featured at APICS 2017, visit


At APICS, we work hard to prepare supply chain management professionals for upcoming innovations in supply chain and business. APICS conferences and their accompanying materials are just two of the resources available to you. Visit to see what APICS can do now to prepare you for supply chain’s future.

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