Are robots hurting job growth?

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

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Erik Brynjolfsson: IBM's deep QA system that plays "Jeopardy," we had a contest here that played against our best MIT students, the best Harvard students we could put it up against. And not surprisingly, Watson won. And it's being used in real practical applications now on Wall Street and in call centers. Siri -- millions of people are using that every day.

Andrew McAfee: The fact that computers can now understand and respond to human speech, the fact that they can actually generate prose of decent quality, they can drive cars, they can win at Jeopardy. We're seeing technology demonstrate skills that it's never, ever done before.

And it is putting new categories of jobs in the sites of automation -- the 60 percent of the workforce that makes its living gathering and analyzing information. This piece of software called e-discovery is now used by law firms in the discovery portion of legal proceedings, a job that used to require hundreds of people sifting through boxes and boxes of documents.

We now have robots gathering intelligence and fighting wars, and robot computers trading stocks on Wall Street.

It's all part of a massive high tech industry that's contributed enormous productivity and wealth to the American economy but surprisingly little in the way of employment.

Andrew McAfee: We absolutely are creating new jobs, new companies, and entirely new industries these days. When Erik and I go out to Silicon Valley and look around, the scale and the pace of creation is astonishing. What these companies are not doing, though, is hiring a ton of people to help them with their work.

Steve Kroft: Because they don't have them? Because they can't find them? Because they don't need them?

Andrew McAfee: Because they can't find everyone they need, but they don't need that many people to work in these incredibly large and influential companies. To make that concrete, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are now all public companies. Combined, they have something close to $1 trillion in market capitalization. Together, the four of them employ fewer than 150,000 people, and that's less than the number of new entrants into the American workforce every month.

And it's roughly half the number of people that work for General Electric.

Ironically, one of the few bright spots is a modest rise in U.S. manufacturing: an early casualty of automation that is making a comeback because it. This Tesla factory in California turns out battery-powered cars, using state-of-the-art robots that can change tools and perform a multitude of different tasks negating some of the advantages of moving jobs offshore.

Annual investment by U.S. manufacturers in new technology has increased almost 30 percent since the recession ended, and research institutions and robotics companies, funded by venture capital, are constantly searching for innovations like the Roomba vacuum cleaner.

[Rodney Brooks: Traditional robots inside factories...]

That was the brain child of Rodney Brooks, a pioneer who ran the artificial intelligence lab at MIT, before launching iRobot one of the most successful robotics companies in the U.S. this is his latest progeny, a friendly, affordable chap named Baxter.

Rodney Brooks: It's meant to be able to go in a factory where they don't have robots at the moment. And ordinary workers can train it to do simple tasks.

Steve Kroft: Uh-huh. Such as?

Rodney Brooks: Well, a simple one is just-- for instance, picking stuff up off a conveyor belt. So it's going to go down and find the object and grab it and bring it over and put it to another spot.