Rise of the Robots (book)

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Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
Rise of the Robots (book).jpg
First edition
AuthorMartin Ford
CountryUnited States
PublisherBasic Books
Publication date

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future is a 2015 book by American futurist Martin Ford. Rise discusses the impact accelerating change and artificial intelligence will have on the labor market. His thesis is that there will be great social and economic disruption, as educated workers will no longer be able to find employment; unlike in previous technological revolutions, very few new jobs will be created in the course of the ongoing disruption.[1]


While technological advances in the previous century mainly displaced more uneducated laborers, the 21st century is seeing technology increasingly threatening skilled workers' jobs as well. Lawyers, radiologists and software designers have seen their work outsourced to the developing world. Ford believes that unlike previous centuries, the current emerging technologies will fail to generate new forms of employment; he predicts that new industries will "rarely, if ever, be highly labor-intensive". Companies like YouTube and Instagram are based on "tiny workforces and huge valuations and revenues".[2] Ford downplays the benefits of expanding education ("The problem is that the skills ladder is not really a ladder at all: it is a pyramid, and there is only so much room at the top"), and argues for a "dramatic policy response" such as a guaranteed basic income.[3]

Many economists disagree with Ford's thesis that the IT revolution is fundamentally different from previous technological revolutions.[4] Libertarian economist Robin Hanson argues that the recent ominous labor trends may have causes other than automation, such as "demographics, regulation, worker values, organization practices, and other technologies".[5]


The book was praised for lucidly arguing its bleak viewpoint. Reviewing Rise in the New York Times, Barbara Ehrenreich stated "The human consequences of robotization are already upon us, and skillfully chronicled here".[2] A review in the Los Angeles Times stated that Rise was "Lucid, comprehensive and unafraid to grapple fairly with those who dispute Ford's basic thesis", and "better than 'Lights in the Tunnel'", Ford's previous book on the same topic.[3] The Guardian's review points out the book gets more speculative as it goes on, and states: "Although it may be difficult to overstate the dangers posed by the new technology", Rise may have managed to do so, but is regardless well worth reading.[6] The "Dot Physics" column in Wired stated "It's sort of depressing to think about the future in cases where robots dominate. Overall, the book was well written with interesting stories about both business and technology."[7] Financial Times chief US commentator Edward Luce called Rise "well researched and disturbingly persuasive".[4]

Rise was awarded the £30,000 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award of 2015.[8]


  1. ^ "Attention White-Collar Workers: The Robots Are Coming For Your Jobs". NPR. 18 May 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b Ehrenreich, Barbara (11 May 2015). "'Rise of the Robots' and 'Shadow Work'". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b "'Rise of the Robots' and the threat of a jobless future". Los Angeles Times. 21 May 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b "'Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future', by Martin Ford". Financial Times. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  5. ^ Hanson, Robin (3 March 2015). "How to Survive a Robot Uprising". Reason.com. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  6. ^ Walton, James (1 October 2015). "The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford / Humans Need Not Apply by Jerry Kaplan – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  7. ^ "Rise of the Robots: How Far Will They Go?". WIRED. 15 June 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  8. ^ "Robots capture 2015 business book award". Financial Times. 17 November 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2017.

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