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Robots are changing the economy even more than you think
New research suggests that we may have misjudged what robots mean to the emerging economy. - photo by JJ Feinauer
How are we supposed to feel about robots? Not the kind that infiltrate governments and threaten to obliterate mankind, but the kind that are revolutionizing the labor market in the 21st century.

Traditionally, the response has been fear fear of the common worker becoming obsolete, and fear of the unknown economic disruption that might result.

But a new report by the Brookings Institution sought to shine some light on what, exactly, the impact of robots has been on the labor market. To do this, Scott Andes and Mark Muro compiled data on labor productivity over the years, looking closely at how other disruptive technologies, such as the steam engine and the rise of information technology, impacted the data. Then, they compared those numbers to what we know about the effects of automation.

Automation (or "robots" as Brookings calls it) typically implies replacing man-power with machine power in manufacturing jobs. As you can see in the chart above, robots have had a similar impact on productivity as the steam engine. While the impact of IT namely personal computers and telephones has outpaced automation, Andes and Muro clarify that "capital investment rates in IT during those years were also five times higher than those in industrial robots during the 1993 to 2007 period."

In other words,"it seems likely that the young robotics revolution is going to be a big, big deal."