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Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, has today published a book exploring the future possibilities of robot technology and the potential consequences for the economy.

The book - whose launch coincides with London Tech Week - takes a different tack from most recent commentary on the so-called “robot economy”, arguing that far from being afraid of it, Britain’s problem is not too many robots, but too few.

It argues that while countries like the US have been investing in robots, and are now beginning to face the first tough choices over what humans will do in an automated society, the UK has underinvested in robots and automation, making us poorer and leading to economy of high employment, but with lots of low-paying jobs that elsewhere would be done by machines.

As Stian Westlake, Nesta’s executive director of policy and research and the editor of the volume, explains: “Robots and automation are changing the nature of jobs and the economy around the world. But because of our underinvestment, Britain isn’t even in a position to worry about the robot economy yet. Contrary to what the pessimists say, we need more robots, and fast. And then we need to create a society where everyone can benefit from them”.

Our Work Here is Done contains perspectives from leading writers and researchers from the fields of technology, economics, philosophy, history and beyond, and contains surprising insights on the question of our robot future, including:

Resilient humans. Interviews with workers whose jobs have been reshaped by robots show that they are more resilient and positive about technology than experts might think

Silicon Valley’s God complex. Robots may be lagging behind in the UK, but in California they are part of a movement that is seeing tech titans taking on the attributes that the ancients associated with gods.

Robots and women’s work. On the one hand, there are signs that women will bear more of the pain of the shift to a robot economy, as robots seem to be replacing women’s jobs in increasing numbers; on the other hand, many jobs currently dominated by women could be growth areas for humans in a robot economy.  

Medieval robots. It turns out that centuries before real robots existed, writers in the speculated on how robots would change the world – and came to many of the same conclusions as today’s pundits.

The book can be downloaded for free at www.nesta.org.uk/robot-economy

Contributors to the book include:

-          The Revolution Will Be Uncomfortable -  Ryan Avent, Economics Correspondent, The Economist

-          The Next Big Thing(s) in Robotics -  Alex Winfield, Bristol Robotics Lab

-          Silicon Valley’s God Complex – Izabella Kaminska, Reporter, Financial Times Alphaville Blog

-          Why Machines are Not Slaves – Edward Skidelsky, Philosophy Lecturer, University of Essex

-          Automation for the People – Nick Hawes, Senior Lecturer in Intelligent Robotics, University of Birmingham

-          Our Work Here is Done: Robot Futures in Fiction – Jon Turner, Science Writer

-          The Second Shift in The Second Machine Age: Automation, Gender and The Future Of Work – Georgina Voss, Visiting Fellow, SPRU, University of Sussex

-          Workers Experience of the Robot Revolution – Tess Reidy, Reporter, The Guardian

-          The Option Value of the Human – Steve Randy Waldman, Interfluidity.com

-          Technological Change, Bargaining Power and Wages – Frederick Guy, Senior Lecturer, Birkbeck, University of London

-          Thinking With Robots: The Secret History of Early Automata – E.R. Truitt, Bryn Mawr College

-          The End of Labour: How to Protect Workers from the Rise of Robots – Noah Smith, State University of New York at Stony Brook

-          Automation and Jobs: Competition or Cooperation? – Frances Coppola, Piera.co.uk and Coppolacomment.blogspot.com

-Ends -

Notes to Editors

For media enquires please contact [email protected] / 020 7438 2614

Our Work Here Is Done is available to download for free at www.nesta.org.uk/robot-economy

About Nesta: Nesta is the UK’s innovation foundation. www.nesta.org.uk