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When Machines Do The Work

What will be our jobs? Never mind outsourcing, it’s machines moving in on the workplace.

In this July 27, 2011 photo, assembly line worker Edward Houie moves a door into position for a 2012 Chevrolet Volt at the General Motors Hamtramck Assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich. General Motors says its U.S. sales rose nearly 8 percent last month, led by fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Chevrolet Cruze car. (AP)

In this July 27, 2011 photo, assembly line worker Edward Houie moves a door into position for a 2012 Chevrolet Volt at the General Motors Hamtramck Assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich. General Motors says its U.S. sales rose nearly 8 percent last month, led by fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Chevrolet Cruze car. (AP)

Ever since machines came on the scene, humans worried they would steal their jobs. They did. But humans adapted. Found other jobs. My guests today, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT, say machines are now moving into the workplace at such a pace that humans can’t keep up.

Not even in many white collar settings, where subtle new machine intelligence is now challenging pedigreed human professionals. Plumbers, you’re going to be ok. But what about the rest of us?

This hour On Point: when machines do the work, how will humans make a living?

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Erik Brynjolfsson, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he is Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business. He’s also the co-author of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.

Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management. He’s also the co-author of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “A faltering economy explains much of the job shortage in America, but advancing technology has sharply magnified the effect, more so than is generally understood, according to two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

The Atlantic “Although computers are encroaching into territory that used to be occupied by people alone, like advanced pattern recognition and complex communication, for now humans still hold the high ground in each of these areas.”

Mother Jones “A pair of MIT economists, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, have written a new book suggesting that computers are finally getting smart enough to do jobs that only people could do in the past. Nothing new there. But they’ve joined a (still small) but growing number of observers who are afraid that the jobs being displaced are being displaced for good:”

Playlist

CALM LIKE A BOMB RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE

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WDBJ-TV7 meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner, right, wipes his eyes during the early morning newscast as anchors Kimberly McBroom, center, and guest anchor Steve Grant deliver the news at the station in Roanoke, Va., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were killed during a live broadcast Wednesday, while on assignment in Moneta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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