Jobs, Robots & Us

Jobs, Robots & Us

Why the Future of Work in New Zealand is in Our Hands

Could millions of jobs soon be eliminated by artificial intelligence and robots? From driverless cars to digital assistants, it seems the world of work is on the cusp of a technological revolution that is generating hopes and fears alike. But are the robots really knocking at the door? And what does all this mean for New Zealanders?

In this far-sighted and lucid book, Kinley Salmon explores the future of work in New Zealand. He interrogates common predictions about a jobless future and explores what might happen to workers in New Zealand as automation becomes more widespread. This book also asks big questions about the power we have to shape technological progress and to influence how robots and artificial intelligence are adopted. It sketches out two bold alternative futures for New Zealand – and suggests what it might take, and what we might risk, to pursue each of them. It is time, Salmon argues, to start debating and choosing the future we want for New Zealand.

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Kinley Salmon at the 2019 Auckland Writers Festival (audio, 49'34'')

Print publication:
Ebook publication: May 2019
Pages: 304
RRP: $39.99
ISBN: 9781988545882
DOI: 10.7810/9781988545882

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'Terry Toner interviews Kinley Salmon', The Book Show, Radio Southland, 13 May 2020.

'Writers 2020 Kinley Salmon', RNZ, 7 April 2020.

'Invasión de robots: ni tan veloz ni tan urgente', El País (Uruguay), 29 December 2019 (pay wall).

'These authors can save your career', Diane Clement, Yudu, September 2019.

'The place of technology in New Zealand's classrooms', Tess Nichol, Metro, 19 August 2019 (includes video, 4'26'').

'Getting a Grip on the Future of Work in New Zealand', Liam Rutherford, Ako Journal, 27 July 2019.

'Best books I never wrote: Kinley Salmon', Stuff, 20 July 2019.

'The mothers of invention', Dave Heatley, Productivity Commission blog, 10 June 2019.

'Time for 'that' conversation is now, says Nelson author exploring our robotic future', Skara Bohny, Nelson Mail, 31 May 2019.

'Talking about future of work, AI and robots', Andrew Ashton, Gisborne Herald, 29 May 2019.

'Jobs, robots and how to secure the future of NZ's workforce', Nathan Smith, National Business Review, 28 May 2019 (paywall).

'Should we really panic about losing our jobs, or is it further away than first thought?', interview with John Campbell, TV1 Breakfast, 27 May 2019, (video, 3'46'').

'Looking for an alternative to the jobs apocalypse', Brian Fallow, New Zealand Herald, 24 May 2019 (paywall).

'Why we shouldn’t fear artificial intelligence and robots', Newshub Nation, 18 May 2019, (video, 6'26", from 47'50").

'Housing failure to make it harder for Kiwi workers to compete with robots', Rob Stock, Stuff, 19 May 2019 (includes video, 2'50").

'Kinley Salmon: Debunking the "robocalypse"', interview with Kathryn Ryan, Nine to Noon, RNZ, 21 May 2019 (audio, 31'56").

'Speak up, NZ, and shape the future of work', Yudu, 21 May 2019.

'The robots are not coming for your job. With a few exceptions', Maria Slade, The Spinoff, 5 May 2019.

'The job apocalypse myth: Why robots probably won't steal your job', Newshub, 5 May 2019.

'Robots stealing our jobs? Don't panic, author says', Rob Stock, Stuff, 4 May 2019.

'Robots and us', Bruce Munro, Otago Daily Times, 13 May 2019.


‘Scholars forecasting "the future" often forget that there is a multitude of possible futures – and all of them depend upon our choices in the present. Kinley Salmon's masterful book embraces this indeterminacy, debunks the misplaced fatalism about the impending 'robocalypse,' and offers a constructive vision for how to attain a future that we desire. Jobs, Robots & Us is essential reading for policymakers, informed citizens, and anyone who suspects that the future is still ahead of us.’ 
David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

‘The next wave of automation is on the horizon, and it will change the world of work. This timely book considering the likely impact on New Zealand makes the important point that there is nothing inevitable about the changes – there are choices to be made about the kind of society we want, with technology serving us, not the other way round.’ 
Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy, University of Cambridge

‘Paranoia currently rules our world regarding the impact of technology on our lives, largely due to misinformation and a lack of context. Kinley Salmon provides a much-needed, informed and balanced view of the changes we face, where they have come from, and how they might affect our world both positively and negatively. It really doesn’t matter where you currently sit in terms of your perspective on the future of work – and our world in general – Jobs, Robots & Us is a valuable addition to your thinking.’ 
John Holt, Chairperson, Kiwi Landing Pad

‘This is a very readable book about one of the central challenges of our time: what happens to good jobs as technology increasingly threatens to replace them with robots and automation? But don’t be misled by the easy-going style. The book packs a very important punch and a deep policy message. Technology does not drop on our laps ready-made; we can (and should) ensure that the direction of technological change is broadly beneficial to society at large rather than the lucky few. Kinley Salmon helps us visualize such a future through vivid examples and stories.’ 
Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

‘A judicious and humane look at the future of work in a field full of hype and hyperbole. His emphasis that technology is not something that just happens to humans but is shaped by choices we make is worth saying, hearing, and repeating.’ 
Lant Pritchett, RISE Research Director at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

‘Technology offers the potential to finally fix New Zealand’s long-standing productivity problem and lift the material well-being of New Zealanders. This important book by Kinley Salmon helps us figure out how to make the most of this opportunity while ensuring that the benefits flow broadly across the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. The challenge for policymakers is to now get on and do it.’ 
Paul Conway, former Director of Economics & Research, New Zealand Productivity Commission

‘There are two kinds of people in the world: the worriers and the solvers. The first group tells us what to focus on. The second tell us what to do about it. Kinley Salmon understands the threats, but is not intimidated by them. In this ambitious book, he shows us that the technological challenges that we face should not daunt New Zealand or the rest of us.’
Ricardo Hausmann, Professor of the Practice of Economic Development and Director of the Center for International Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

'Kinley Salmon writes like a dream on the future of work in New Zealand and, specifically, jobs, robots and people. He intelligently combines scholarship, journalistic inquiry, statistics, expert opinion, fictional work and poignant anecdotes to engage us from the first page to the last. Salmon’s thoughtful yet accessible reflections amount to a unique exposé on what technological advancements will really mean for employment levels, job character, how we engage with work and workplace productivity. He also garners empirical evidence to give us cause to feel optimistic about humans’ capacity to shape their experience, and the success, of workplaces that engage with machines while pursuing an effective trade-off between economic maximisation and human meaning. Yet Salmon’s work is also important for analysing, as he puts it, “what we know, what we don’t know, and what might really be going on” in both New Zealand and overseas contexts, and he does not shy away from explaining the political, policy and other challenges and opportunities that technological changes in the workplace could bring. This remarkable and ground-breaking book is a rewarding read, particularly for academics, policy-makers and business leaders, and is likely to become a well-thumbed reference in and beyond these circles.'
Jane Parker, Professor of Employment Relations and Human Resource Management, Massey University


'Jobs, Robots and Us provides a useful overview of some of the main questions that need to be considered about the emergence of the automated economy. The merit of Salmon’s book is that it is focused on the New Zealand context, and the specific effects of automation on our industries. This makes it relevant and timely and a good entry point for those wondering what all the fuss is about.'
– Victor Billot, Landfall Review Online, 1 September 2020.

'The New Zealand focus is used adroitly to anchor the arguments and does not limit the contribution for readers in other countries ... Overall, Kinley Salmon has produced a highly readable, informative and thought-provoking book addressing one of the greatest challenges of our age – how to ensure that the exponential growth of artificial intelligence and automation is, in Schumpeterian terms, more creative than destructive.'
– Jim Arrowsmith, Labour & Industry, February 2020.

'I am currently enjoying the excellent new book Jobs, Robots and Us: Why the Future of Work in New Zealand is In Our Hands by Washington-based New Zealand economist Kinley Salmon. It’s a comprehensively researched, yet very accessible, read through a subject which continues to exercise minds around the world. Highly recommended.'
– Ben Reid, AI Forum newsletter, August 2019.

'There is plenty to think about in this book, and it’s an important study of our own particular economy and circumstances. While this is one view, Salmon’s — that of an economist, academic and millennial — is an analysis that will stimulate discussion and debate.'
– Stella, Volume Books blog, 25 May 2019.

'As a teacher, I found this work challenging but hopeful. My students will play an important part in deciding what work will look like, but the environment that enables such changes lies with my generation.'
– Kathy Watson, The Reader, 10 July 2019.