Good News About Robots! (?)

When both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times do the same non-breaking-news story within the same week, a media cynic suspects the gentle hand of corporate public relations.

And so it is with Workers: Fear Not the Robot Apocalypse in the Journal and As Amazon Pushes Forward With Robots, Workers Find New Roles in the Times.

Both are well-reported on-sceners about Amazon’s rapid expansion of robot technology in their giant warehouses.

Many observers, however, contend this is not good long-term news for human employees.  And that conflicts with another wave of stories earlier this year (including again both the Journal and the Times).  Those earlier articles suggested that as employees lose their jobs in bricks-and-mortar retail, they can find even better jobs working at e-commerce warehouses.  The prime example, once again, being Amazon.

So, not surprisingly, both of these most recent Amazon robot stories have happy endings.  The Times suggests that robots mean that workers will get more interesting jobs.  The Journal goes further to claim that robots will actually create more jobs for humans.

As Jake Barnes says in The Sun Also Rises: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

Amazon has a ferocious enemy in the White House (Jeff Bezos also owns one of those “enemies of the people” that so enrage the commander in chief).  Thus Amazon is certainly wise to spend as much media horsepower as possible to position themselves as job creators and thereby indispensable to economic growth.  And whoever is doing their press relations deserves a big Christmas bonus, for so deftly handling the robot issue.

But it doesn’t change the fact that long-term, robotics and artificial intelligence will fundamentally alter the face of work in ways that our society is very poorly equipped to handle.

And, come to think of it, neither will it change the fact that our President really, really hates The Washington Post.