We've been through this debate before, says Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Akst. The last such period of disruptive automation was in the mid-20th century:

Reading through the literature of the period, one is struck—and humbled—by how wrong so many smart people could be. Yet some got the story largely right. Automation did not upend the fundamental logic of the economy. But it did disproportionate harm to less-skilled workers.

Akst concludes:

Perhaps the biggest lesson we can learn from the midcentury thinkers who worried about automation is that while there is cause for concern, there is no other way but forward. Like trade, automation makes us better off collectively by making some of us worse off. So the focus of our concern should be on those injured by the robots, even if the wounds are “only” economic.

(H/t AL Daily.)

Photo by Flickr user spenceyc.