VB Special Issue: Automation and jobs in the new normal

Aside from staying alive and healthy, the biggest concern most people have during the pandemic is the future of their jobs. Unemployment in the U.S. has skyrocketed, from 5.8 million in February 2020 to 16.3 million in July 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it’s not only the lost jobs that are reshaping work in the wake of COVID-19; the nature of many of the remaining jobs has changed, as remote work becomes the norm. And in the midst of it all, automation has become potentially a threat to some workers and a salvation to others.

In this issue, we examine this tension and explore the good, bad, and unknown of how automation could affect jobs in the immediate and near future.

Prevailing wisdom says that the wave of new AI-powered automation will follow the same pattern as other technological leaps: They’ll kill off some jobs but create new (and potentially better) ones. But it’s unclear whether that will hold true this time around. Complicating matters is that at a time when workplace safety has to do with limiting the spread of a deadly virus, automation can play a role in reducing the number of people who are working shoulder-to-shoulder — keeping workers safe, but also eliminating jobs.

Even as automation creates exciting new opportunities, it’s important to bear in mind that those opportunities will not be distributed equally. Some jobs are more vulnerable to automation than others, and uneven access to reskilling and other crucial factors will mean that some workers will be left behind.

How robotics and automation could create new jobs in the new normal

The COVID-19 crisis could accelerate a robotics revolution and impact jobs — but it’s not necessarily all bad news for workers.

The promise of automation — and those who could be left behind

Though automation is creating new job opportunities, many workers are at risk of being left behind. But that bleak future is not inevitable.

The meatpacking industry is an incubator for AI, automation, and COVID-19

As the pandemic stretches on, the threat to meatpacking, meat processing, and distribution center employees has researchers seeking a new production model.

How AI and remote collaboration tools could help the construction industry get back to work

Builders, electricians, and plumbers can’t work over Zoom, but digital technology could play a big part in getting the construction industry back to work.

Robots, AI, and the road to a fully autonomous construction industry

We spoke with construction AI startups about innovation, challenges in the field, and what it will take to create fully autonomous construction sites.

The role of autonomous ships in a world wary of pandemics

Ships play a huge part in the global economy, and we could soon see a bigger push toward automation in the maritime realm.

Smooth teleoperator: The rise of the remote controller

Autonomous vehicles, such as cars, forklifts, and delivery robots, may never be able to operate 100% independently. That is where teleoperation could help.