Make Room for Robots

Automation will hold a key to the future in countries like Ireland that face an aging workforce and demographic shifts

Aging Drives Automation

Recent research by Daron Acemoglu (MIT) and Pascual Restrepo (Boston University) shows that when societies age, they adopt more automation technology such as industrial robotics. These machines replace humans in tasks for which there are no longer enough workers. In fact, aging is a more important factor in the adoption of automation than the financial efficiencies that the technology delivers.

Image: Shutterstock

Adopt, Then Sell Automation

The research shows something else that could offer some hope for Ireland’s economic future. The countries that adopted robots due to aging populations are not just users of automation technologies, their firms became developers and exporters.

Automation That Works

We know that when automation is too deep or too rapid in certain sectors or locations, it can have negative effects. The types of jobs that remain may be less desirable or it can be a driver of income inequality if the owners of the robots get richer while the share of the pie left for workers gets smaller. But this isn’t a certainty and it’s a complex phenomenon.

Bottom-up

Ireland’s national AI policy is relatively benign. Most of its strategic actions are focused on “considering, examining, reviewing and exploring” rather than state-led investment or action. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

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