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Photo: Stefano Montesi / Getty Images

Only months ago, we were warned of the robot apocalypse — runaway automation that will vaporize swaths of today's jobs, too quickly and profoundly for the economy to create replacements. More recently, we hear an industrywide defense of the robots — the argument that, as has always happened since the early days of the industrial revolution, jobs we never imagined will overcome automation, employing everyone who wants to work. The trouble with both camps is one of forecasting everywhere:

We hear an abundance of assertion; and since professionals are paid to make these forecasts, we also hear a lot of certitude. What has been in short supply is fact. So we just don't know what the future holds.

The case for robots: We sat down this week with senior company executives from Deloitte, which sits in the "don't worry" camp. Eamonn Kelly, a Deloitte futurist, gave the best case we have yet heard for that scenario.

Kelly's argument

When technological disruption has happened, it has done the following three things:

  • Displaced people
  • Augmented what people can do; and
  • Created a new art of the possible, including new work

For two centuries, catastrophe has been routinely forecast from new technology, but "it's never happened because No. 3 is massively bigger than No. 1," Kelly said.

Go deeper

10 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.