History of Work infographic

An infographic created by data journalist Miriam Quick and information designer Piero Zagami, published on the BBC website, gives us a humorous look at where ‘hope’ and ‘hype’ diverge in our attempts to predict the ways technology will impact our jobs.

Not too long ago the idea that robots, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence could one day take over society was seen by most Americans as science fiction. However, as stated in a 2017 news article from The Guardian,  contemporary public perceptions of automation technologies are quickly changing.  The article highlights the results of a Pew Research Center survey of 4,135 U.S. adults that found that more than 70% of Americans are concerned about a future in which robots and computers are capable of doing many jobs that are currently done by humans. 

These worries are not necessarily modern and new.  Northwestern University economic historian Joel Mokyr believes historical records indicate that worries about machines replacing workers are “not new to the modern era.” Furthermore, he has argued that many of the alarmist predictions about mass technological unemployment made since the Industrial Revolution have been proven wrong in the long run. Read more in this Humanities Booyah article, “The Robots are Coming?”

The infographic created by Quick and Zagami is a great illustration of some of Mokyr’s ideas.


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