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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

Acting Capitol Police chief: Officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman wrote in prepared remarks for a House hearing on Thursday that officers in her department were "unsure of when to use lethal force" during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: Capitol Police did deploy lethal force on Jan. 6 — shooting and killing 35-year-old Ashli Babbit — but have faced questions over why officers appeared to be less forceful against pro-Trump rioters than participants in previous demonstrations, including those over Black Lives Matter and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

United CEO is confident people will feel safe traveling again by 2022

Axios' Joann Muller and United CEO Scott Kirby. Photo: Axios

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes that people will feel safe traveling again by this time next year, depending on the pace of vaccinations and the government's ongoing response to the pandemic, he said at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: Misery for global aviation is likely to continue and hold back a broader economic recovery if nothing changes, especially with new restrictions on international border crossings. U.S. airlines carried about 60% fewer passengers in 2020 compared with 2019.

The risks and rewards of charging state-backed hackers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Last week’s stunning indictment of three North Korean hackers laid bare both the advantages and drawbacks of the U.S. government’s evolving strategy of using high-profile prosecutions to publicize hostile nation-state cyber activities.

Why it matters: Criminal charges can help the U.S. establish clear norms in a murky and rapidly changing environment, but they may not deter future bad behavior and could even invite retaliation against U.S. intelligence officials.