Should robots pay a tax? It’s an idea that is being actively discussed. Prominent supporters include the New York mayor Bill de Blasio, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
The reason is obvious: the automation of more and more areas of the economy is causing concern not only among people, but also among states that are worried about declining tax revenue. So far, however, this has been an imaginary concern. Throughout history, people have used machines to automate things that they used to do themselves. Just think of automatic production lines for cars or computers.
Will automation lead to job losses?
However, automation technology has never led to the feared mass unemployment. Old professions have died out and new ones have been created. The emergence of computers in the 1980s and 1990s actually led to a significant increase in productivity.
Current forecasts differ widely. Different studies assume an automation rate of 15% by 2030, up to 47% by 2050. Some do not predict an increase in the unemployment rate, others expect job losses, especially in rural, structurally weak regions.
A new billion dollar market
At the same time, innovation and future technologies are creating a new market that will create new jobs. McKinsey estimates that the use of robots could generate up to $4.5 trillion in value every year, as early as 2025. But change creates the need for adaptation.
Sensors are getting better, robot movements are becoming more precise, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) has enabled machines to make more meaningful decisions for the future, based on their own actions. Whether combat robots, industrial robots or service robots, robot technology can be used almost anywhere. This results in cost savings and an improvement in performance – and again an increase in productivity.
CEO, Andrew Anagnost, expects that we will ultimately benefit from automation. Automation will help “win more projects, make more products, employ more people, [and achieve] better quality, better outcomes, and better profits. And we’ll do all of this with less time, less resources, and — most importantly — less negative impact on the world we live in.”
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Growth presents an opportunity for investors. However, investors who want to benefit from these developments are entering a highly competitive, fragmented market. Not every company that offers concepts today will be among the winners in the future. It can therefore make sense to spread risks and spread your investments over several companies.
NVidia: The graphics giant
In order for robots to be able to find their way in the real world, you need eyes like a human and must be able to process information at least as quickly, if not faster. NVidia develops holistic robotics systems and focuses on the area of graphic processors, which, compared to conventional computer processors, are specially designed for the processing of three-dimensional and real-time signals. NVidia is the world leader in graphics cards and graphics processors.
Deere & Co: agricultural machinery smarter than your smartphone
Combine harvesters and tractors have long been equipped with GPS and connected to the internet, and can be controlled automatically via fields – without a driver on board. John Deere sees itself today as a technology company and no longer just as the manufacturer of the famous green agricultural machines.
Like NVidia, Qualcomm develops holistic automation and robotics systems that can be used modularly. Qualcomm's core competence is in the area of 5G mobile radio. The modules help to equip robots with a wide variety of functions and skills and are scalable even for large projects.
ServiceNow: supports digitisation
With ServiceNow's cloud-based apps, people can make digital workflows more efficient and productive. Outdated, manual working methods are transformed into modern, digital workflows.
Intuitive Surgical: Robotics outside of industry
Intuitive Surgical is a company that is one of the pioneers in robot-assisted surgical technology. Intuitive Surgical devices help improve patient health by making surgical procedures more precise.
Illumina: decoding the human genome
Illumina is an American manufacturer of genetic engineering equipment based in San Diego. Through automation, the company has reduced the cost of decoding a human genome from $1m in 2007 to $1,000 in 2014.
Why invest in robotics and automation?
There are a number of potential pros and cons with regards to the potential future direction of the robotics and automation industry.
The bullish stance
- Automation creates a new mass market that increases productivity
- Companies with the right products help other companies to do more with less, thereby meeting the goals of their shareholders
- The environmental aspect promotes using resources more sparingly, and automation helps to achieve environmental goals
- Automation addresses the shortage of skilled workers, since qualified and complex work can be done by robots
- Robots help automate repetitive and boring tasks, which can help people take on more important tasks
- Job security can be improved through automation
The bearish view
- Governments could slow down growth in the industry through regulation or taxes
- Large job losses due to automation could cloud public perception and slow growth
- Devices can only do what they are programmed to do, while humans are able to adapt
- If the area of application for the machine ceases to exist, it is likely to become redundant
- The electricity requirements and potential pollution
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