The Globotics Upheaval: globalization, robotics, and the future of work
15 May 2019 | 17:15 | Forum Rolex
[Conference held in english]
Once again, trade and technology are reshaping the world of work. They shifted workers from farms to factories in the 19th century and from factories to offices in the 20th century. Now, a combination of globalization and robotics – “globotics” – has come for service-sector and professional jobs. Digital technology has created “white-collar robots” that can do our office work. It has also made possible a new form of globalization, “telemigration”, that allows talented, low-cost workers sitting abroad to work in our offices without actually being there.
Will globotics create jobs or just destroy them? What will the future of our work look like?
Richard Baldwin will give a Campus Lecture at EPFL on 15 May to discuss this question, which is also the subject of his book, arguing that globots will help us build a better world.
We will be freed to focus on the jobs that they cannot do, with the enticing prospect of work without drudgery that focuses on our creative, human skills. There will be stumbles on the path to this more local, more enlightened workplace, however. If we give reason for resentful white-collar workers who lose office jobs to side with disenfranchised blue-collar workers who have already lost factory jobs, their combined anger could destabilize our society. Governments can avoid this upheaval, though, using tools that they already possess to help displaced workers find new jobs, make the competition from globots seem fairer, and – if necessary – slow the pace of progress until we can adjust to it.
Richard E. Baldwin is a professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, where he has been researching globalization and trade for the past 30 years. He is also ex-President of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and Editor-in-Chief of VoxEU, which he founded in June 2007. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
He has published extensively in the areas of globalisation, international trade, regionalism, WTO, European integration, economic geography, political economy and growth, and is recognised as an expert on the economic drivers and risks of globalisation. His latest book, The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics and the Future of Work, addresses the role of digital technology in driving both globalisation and automation of service and professional jobs in advanced economies.