Marshall Brain: Robots to eliminate 50 million jobs

October 25 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Business & Work   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5 Hot

Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works, gave a presentation on how robots can easily eliminate half the workforce of the United States fairly soon.

He said that by 2042 there will be $500 desktop computers with computing power equal to the human brain. We can then put this into a robot which will have the power to do jobs that millions of people hold today. Robots can easily take over education, transportation, construction and retail jobs.

For example: Walmart alone has over 1.2 million employees, performing easy jobs. If robots take the jobs, “a million jobs at Walmart will evaporate.”

But what about the job market?

6.5 million in construction will be gone. 16.4 million in manufacturing will be gone. Retail/wholesale will lose 20 million jobs. Drivers will lose 3 million jobs. Education to lose 2 million.

“Half the jobs in the economy right now we can see robots taking over.”

He ended with the question displayed “What if 50-million people became unemployed?” He then said “there is no doubt these jobs will be gone fairly soon.” We have to start modifying our economy to deal with the mass unemployed.

Will robots eliminate millions of jobs?

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Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. Addition: Brain got into a bit of a tiff with the reporter from CNET

    Posted by: John Heylin   October 25, 2008
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  2. So if we all we’ll be starving and out of jobs, who we’ll be paying for all these products and services created by our intellectually superior robotic overlords???

    Posted by: johnfrink   October 27, 2008
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  3. I don’t know about “intellectually superior robotic overlords”, what Mr. Brain is describing sounds more like intellectually stunted robotic slaves to me. Slaves designed specifically to supplant me in my present livelihood, I might add.

    Not the slaves fault, of course, and I’m even sympathetic to the position of the company buying the robots to replace me. None of which really addresses my continuing requirement for financially gainful occupation.

    Now, I’m in no immediate danger of robot-induced unemployment any time soon. Innovation and change don’t occur in a societal vacuum so the credit and other financial disruptions much in the news of late will continue to retard implimentation of systemic change for at least as long as I continue to be a cheaper option to the robotic alternative. I give it a decade for the manufacturing environment to make the transition to the extent needed to replace my employment position entirely.

    If it was just me being affected nobody else would especially care, but my age (cumulative work experience), employment seniority and skills make me one of the last people likely to be displaced, I believe. And that’s without having to resort to the Jr. option*. What we need is an expansive effort to prepare people in advance of the onset of the event horizon. Maybe the Singularity University, maybe something else, but something – because the alternative is really not going to be pretty.

    • Bonus points for correctly identifying the “cultural” reference. :)

    Posted by: Will   October 27, 2008
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