Author(s): Kinley Salmon
Could millions of jobs soon be eliminated by artificial intelligence and robots? From driverless cars to digital assistants, it seems the world of work is on the cusp of a technological revolution that is generating hopes and fears alike. But are the robots really knocking at the door? And what does all this mean for New Zealanders? In this far-sighted and lucid book, Kinley Salmon explores the future of work in New Zealand. He interrogates common predictions about a jobless future and explores what might happen to workers in New Zealand as automation becomes more widespread. This book also asks big questions about the power we have to shape technological progress and to influence how robots and artificial intelligence are adopted. It sketches out two bold alternative futures for New Zealand and suggests what it might take, and what we might risk, to pursue each of them. It is time, Salmon argues, to start debating and choosing the future we want for New Zealand.
The robots are coming, but not yet. The hype from the tech companies and the media has us all on edge. What sort of world are we heading towards? Are half our jobs going to disappear? And how will new innovations alter the ways in which we live? In Kinley Salmon’s Jobs, Robots & Us, he asks us to take a step back — away from the exclamation headlines and suave entrepreneurs in suits — and take a longer and sometimes more wary look at the next wave of technological change. And Salmon’s book is specifically looking at New Zealand, an economy that he believes has the hallmarks to be nimble, to take the opportunity to be in change of its own destiny, and to create a healthy and wealthy environment in this future workplace. In this timely book he outlines the kinds of innovation that are possible, and which is best at creating jobs. He gives perspective to the technological changes of the past and present, and uses this analysis to project what the future might be like. There is a particular emphasis on looking at the challenges that New Zealand currently has, and the necessary changes and improvements we would need to make to ensure a positive outcome. He focuses on six aspects and their associated toolboxes: tools that would need to be implemented through policy to encourage business to respond accordingly. He sketches out two different future scenarios: one, most familiar to us, which involves a greater degree of technology in our everyday lives, but also has work (better work) at its centre; and another that means we ‘work’ less or not at all in roles where automation and AI do the work better and more cheaply, but where there is a UBI (Universal Basic Income) and opportunities for added income or what we would recognise as ‘lifestyle’ projects to satisfy our desire to be productive. Both of these scenarios require improved education and new skills training to allow us to prosper in a high-tech world. Amid all this is the challenge to harness the harms of production. The environmental impact of continued and increasing production and consumption is the problem of our times — one which we have ignored for too long. While some measures have been in place to attempt to alleviate these negative impacts on the planet, these have been slow in happening, not yet enough and require more compliance. Salmon recognises the problems of work-creation and the environment, and proposes higher carbon taxes and measures to ensure that business look towards a sustainable future, enforced by regulation and planning at a governmental level. There is plenty to think about in this book, and it’s an important study of our own particular economy and circumstances. While this is one view, Salmon’s — that of an economist, academic and millennial — is an analysis that will stimulate discussion and debate. The sub-title of this work is Why the future of work in New Zealand is in our hands, and this is his call to us all: to think, discuss and choose what kind of future we want for ourselves and the next generations.