Are robots hurting job growth?

Technological advances, especially robotics, are revolutionizing the workplace, but not necessarily creating jobs

Bruce Welty: Yes, in a typical warehouse, she'd have to walk from location to location with a number of totes. And that's the innovation here is that the product comes to her.

Steve Kroft: And all of this is preprogrammed? Nobody has to sit there and tell these robots where to go?

Bruce Welty: No, no, it's all done with algorithms. A lot of mathematics, a lot of science that went into this.

Customer orders are transmitted from a computer to wifi antennas that direct the robots to the merchandise, guiding them across an electronic checkerboard with bar codes embedded in the floor panels. Once the robot arrives at its destination, it picks up an entire shelf of merchandise and delivers it to the packing station. It then speeds off to its next assignment.

Bruce Welty: They know if they need to get from point A to point B and they are not carrying anything , they can go underneath the grid. We call that tunneling. So they are very smart.

Steve Kroft: You'd think they'd run into each other.

Bruce Welty: Yeah, you'd think that but it never happens.

Steve Kroft: If you had to replace the robots with people, how many people would you have to hire?

Bruce Welty: Probably one and a half people for every robot.

Steve Kroft: So it saves you a lot of money?

Bruce Welty: Yes.

And it's not just going on in warehouses. El Camino Hospital in California's Silicon Valley has a fleet of robots called tugs that ferry meals to patients, medicines to doctors and nurses, blood samples to the lab and dirty linen to the laundry.

A hospital spokesman told us the tugs are supposed to supplement nurses and hospital staff - not replace them. But he also believes that robots and humans working together is the beginning of a new era.

Robots are now wielding scalpels for surgeons, assisting in the most delicate operations -- allowing them to see and snip their way through prostate surgeries with minimal damage. And they have begun filling prescriptions in hospital dispensaries and local pharmacies.

Economic evolution has been going on for centuries and society has always successfully adapted to technological change creating more jobs in the process. But Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT think this time may be different.

Erik Brynjolfsson: Technology is always creating jobs. It's always destroying jobs. But right now the pace is accelerating. It's faster we think than ever before in history. So as a consequence, we are not creating jobs at the same pace that we need to.

Andrew McAfee: And we ain't seen nothing yet.

The changes are coming so quickly it's been difficult for workers to retrain themselves and for entrepreneurs to figure out where the next opportunities may be. The catalyst is something called computer learning or artificial intelligence -- the ability to feed massive amounts of data into supercomputers and program them to teach themselves and improve their performance.

It's how Apple was able to create Siri the iPhone robot and Google its self-driving car.

Erik Brynjolfsson: We've been amazed at how rapidly this has been happening.

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