The CSG is proud to announce the release of a new publication series, The Big Idea Brief. The series tackles the big public policy issues of the day. It distills those issues into a concise and accessible read, offering ideas on how pressing challenges can be addressed. The series seeks to inform and drive vibrant public discourse, a key to policy innovation and healthy democratic institutions.
The inaugural edition of the Big Idea Brief series is titled: Robotics and the Age of Automation: Preparing for the Coming Disruption. Authored by CSG Executive Director Mark Sedra the paper summarizes the proceedings of the 1st Waterloo Symposium on Technology and Society, held on April 16, 2019, which explored the ways in which AI and automation are outpacing humans in a range of sectors, from education and law to agriculture and healthcare. The paper offers a pragmatic view of what the future of work will look like and seeks to answer an existential question: can accelerating technology disrupt our entire economic system to the point where a fundamental restructuring is required? In other words, is today’s technological revolution fundamentally different than those of previous eras, such as the industrial revolution and the rise of the internet? In past eras of technological disruption, the elimination of some categories of jobs was offset by the emergence of new types of complimentary work. Today, rapid advances in machine learning has paved the way for machines that are wholly autonomous, rendering a large segment of the labour force obsolete. The prospect of an economy without human labour is more real than ever, yet we have not meaningfully grappled with its societal implications. The paper will explore different policy options, from universal basic income to education system reforms, that private and public sector actors can enact to better prepare our society for the coming disruption.