Information about science based innovations, solid facts to support decision-making, performance and business development for VTT’s partners, customers and anyone interested in high technology and its applications.
A magazine on science, technology and business

​​

We cannot afford not to have robots

Matti Apunen | 14.1.2016

The history of working life can be simplified as a race between humans and machines: work by humans is perceived as “good”, work by machines as “bad”. Those in the field of the arts, media and sociology like to paint a threatening picture. Machines are faceless, inhuman and create inequality. 

A recent publication by the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy ETLA, Työn murros (“Disruption of Work”), is a refreshing read and an important collection of the latest research results on working life. It approaches the technological disruption and more automated future fairly calmly.

According to the researches at ETLA, machine automation will replace human workers, and this is a welcome development. Some jobs will be lost, but that is acceptable. The future is uncertain, as it has always been.

But isn’t this approach a little harsh and inhuman?

Työn murros (“Disruption of Work”) by Antti Kauhanen, Mika Maliranta, Petri Rouvinen and Vesa Vihriälä is recommended reading for anyone wondering what they might be doing for a living in a decade’s time. It is an excellent depiction of creative disruption, what brings it about and why resistance is futile.

The hundred-page seminal work provides an antidote to the demonization of technology and the much-loved myth that from now on – from this (!) very moment – things will take a permanent turn to the worst.

ETLA has studied the effects of automation and digitalisation on jobs in Finland, estimating that approximately one third of them is in danger of being replaced by machine automation. Or rather: approximately one third of our workforce will get the chance to transfer to jobs with higher productivity.

“The scenarios focusing on the destruction of work are haunted by an idea of a static partial balance of sorts. For the most part, they do not consider that the human work replaced by machines could be useful elsewhere, or that a mass replacement would also change the end market,” writes ETLA’s Research Director Petri Rouvinen.

In the textile industry, industrial revolution reduced the amount of human work required to manufacture a metre of fabric by a whopping 98 per cent. Despite this development, there were four times the number of people working in textile manufacturing in 1900 than in 1830.

How is this possible? It is due to the fact that lower prices expand the total available market, generating new demand.

Although most of its manufacturing lines are now robotic, ABB’s Wiring Accessories unit in Porvoo has not reduced its workforce. The plant has quickly improved its productivity – and not just by a percentage point or two, but by an impressive 40 per cent in five years. In the words of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, what a productivity leap!

The Kauppalehti commerce newspaper (6.8.2015) interviewed ABB employees who were happy to report a reduction in sick leaves and an increase in job satisfaction because they were freed from mechanical assembly tasks to more interesting and meaningful tasks.

At this stage of digital disruption, both blue-collar and white-collar workers are being replaced. Machine automation is advancing full steam ahead in sectors such as accounting, as is beginning to emerge in the care sector.

Digitalisation opens up new opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs. It reduces their start-up costs and makes them better equipped to specialise. The downside of this development is that this applies not only to domestic entrepreneurs, but all entrepreneurs globally. Competition will intensify.

At the same time, global digitalisation will increase wealth disparities. This is the price we must pay and the change we must adapt to.

Työn murros absolves technology. Studying the development over hundreds of years, it demonstrates that technical development is of benefit to a large majority of people. While some people will lose their jobs, and some jobs will be lost for good, as consumers, Finns reap all kinds of benefits from the very same digitalisation and robotisation that expose them to intensified levels of competition.

We simply cannot afford not to use robots. 


IMP_Apunen.jpg

Matti Apunen
Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA


 

 

Impulsehttp://www.vttresearch.com/ImpulseImpulse
Impulse 1/2015http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2015.aspxImpulse 1/2015
Impulse 2/2015http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-2-2015.aspxImpulse 2/2015
Impulse 1/2016http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2016.aspxImpulse 1/2016
A birthday gift from us to ourselveshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-birthday-gift-from-us-to-ourselves.aspxA birthday gift from us to ourselves
A future without wastewater?http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-future-without-wastewater.aspxA future without wastewater?
A machine is more humanehttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/A-machine-is-more-humane.aspxA machine is more humane
Are environmental claims believable?http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Are-environmental-claims-believable.aspxAre environmental claims believable?
At the digital forefront of mininghttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/At-the-digital-forefront-of-mining.aspxAt the digital forefront of mining
Boost for propeller developmenthttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Boost-for-propeller-development.aspxBoost for propeller development
Challenges conceal opportunitieshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Challenges-conceal-opportunities.aspxChallenges conceal opportunities
Comfy but energy efficient homeshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Comfy-but-energy-efficient-homes.aspxComfy but energy efficient homes
Converting rags to design clotheshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Converting-rags-to-design-clothes.aspxConverting rags to design clothes
Designers needed in printed technologyhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Designers-needed-in-printed-technology.aspxDesigners needed in printed technology
Developers of the futurehttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Developers-of-the-future.aspxDevelopers of the future
From ideas to major innovationshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/From-drawing-board-to-major-innovation.aspxFrom ideas to major innovations
Intelligence for machineshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Intelligence-for-machines.aspxIntelligence for machines
VTT Impulsehttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/MainPage.aspxVTT Impulse
Jari Gustafsson: Old and new workhorses as recession beatershttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Old-and-new-workhorses-as-recession-beaters.aspxJari Gustafsson: Old and new workhorses as recession beaters
Same old routine for the next 100 yearshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Same-old-routine-for-the-next-100-years.aspxSame old routine for the next 100 years
Serious efforts to boost the Finnish economyhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Serious-efforts-to-boost-the-Finnish-economy.aspxSerious efforts to boost the Finnish economy
The creators of the future get down to businesshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-creators-of-the-future-get-down-to-business.aspxThe creators of the future get down to business
The new agenda enhances the use of research infrastructurehttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-new-agenda-enhances-the-use-of-research-infrastructure.aspxThe new agenda enhances the use of research infrastructure
We must maintain Finland as an attractive target for investmenthttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/We-must-maintain-Finland-as-an-attractive-target-for-investment.aspxWe must maintain Finland as an attractive target for investment
Demand for energy storage is growing rapidlyhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Demand-for-energy-storage-is-growing-rapidly.aspxDemand for energy storage is growing rapidly
Let's make bioeconomy a realityhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Lets-make-bioeconomy-a-reality.aspxLet's make bioeconomy a reality
Risk management in an increasingly complex worldhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Risk-management-in-an-increasingly-complex-world.aspxRisk management in an increasingly complex world
Brazil paves the way for bioenergyhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Brazil-paves-the-way-for-bioenergy.aspxBrazil paves the way for bioenergy
Health benefits and efficiency without sacrificing food qualityhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Health-benefits-and-efficiency-without-sacrificing-food-quality.aspxHealth benefits and efficiency without sacrificing food quality
Modelling and simulation facilitateshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Modelling-and-simulation-facilitates.aspxModelling and simulation facilitates
Return on investmentshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Return-on-investments.aspxReturn on investments
Finland is good investmenthttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finland-is-good-investment.aspxFinland is good investment
Impulse 1/2017http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2017.aspxImpulse 1/2017
Impulse 2/2014http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-2-2014.aspxImpulse 2/2014
Impulse 1/2014http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2014.aspxImpulse 1/2014
By measuring you can improvehttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/By-measuring-you-can-improve.aspxBy measuring you can improve
What's going on in Australia?http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Whats-going-on-in-Australia.aspxWhat's going on in Australia?
Using personal know-how to promote the common goodhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Using-personal-know-how-to-promote-the-common-good.aspxUsing personal know-how to promote the common good
Impulse 2/2016http://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-2-2016.aspxImpulse 2/2016
Senior Scientist Jukka Hemila, VTT: From technology hype to customer understandinghttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Senior-Scientist-Jukka-Hemila-VTT-From-technology-hype-to-customer-understanding.aspxSenior Scientist Jukka Hemila, VTT: From technology hype to customer understanding
The future 5G network proceeds to test phase in Ouluhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-future-5G-network-proceeds-to-test-phase-in-Oulu.aspxThe future 5G network proceeds to test phase in Oulu
An export product tougher than nailshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/An-export-product-tougher-than-nails.aspxAn export product tougher than nails
Gerontechnology providing everyday assistance and safetyhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Gerontechnology-providing-everyday-assistance-and-safety.aspxGerontechnology providing everyday assistance and safety
Better beer based on long-term researchhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Better-beer-based-on-long-term-research.aspxBetter beer based on long-term research
Business angel speaks out: Growth from the international arenahttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Business-angel-speaks-out-Growth-from-the-international-arena.aspxBusiness angel speaks out: Growth from the international arena
Miniaturising devices to fit on your palmhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Miniaturising-devices-to-fit-on-your-palm.aspxMiniaturising devices to fit on your palm
There is no better innovation model in the worldhttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/There-is-no-better-innovation-model-in-the-world.aspxThere is no better innovation model in the world
VTT’s spin-off GrainSense puts a laboratory in farmers’ handshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/VTTs-spin-off-GrainSense-puts-a-laboratory-in-farmers-hands.aspxVTT’s spin-off GrainSense puts a laboratory in farmers’ hands
Leca – filtering a cleaner futurehttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Leca-filtering-a-cleaner-future.aspxLeca – filtering a cleaner future
Pilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activitieshttp://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Pilot-plants-forge-innovative-ideas-into-business-activities.aspxPilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activities

CONTACT US

P.O. Box 1000, FI-02044 VTT, Finland
Tel. exchange +358 20 722 111
Opening hours Mon - Fri 8:00 - 16:30,
UTC +2 time zone

CUSTOMER SERVICE

info@vtt.fi
Tel. +358 20 722 7070
Opening hours Mon - Fri 9:00 - 11:00 and 12:00 - 15:00,
UTC +2 time zone