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Amazon exec: robots and automation will enhance, not replace, human jobs

In brief: Companies adopting generative AI, robotics, and other forms of automation will always bring fears that humans are being made redundant. But an executive at Amazon, which is embracing GenAI and human-like robots, claims it’s a “myth” that these technologies take jobs away from people.

Stefano La Rovere, Amazon’s director of global robotics, mechatronics, and sustainable packaging, told CNBC that advanced modern tech will merely enhance workers’ roles and create new job categories, rather than lead to mass layoffs.

“It is a myth that technology and robots take out jobs,” La Rovere told CNBC‘s “Street Signs Europe.”

Amazon said it has spent $751 million on installing more than 1,000 new technologies across its European fulfilment centers over the last five years, “enhancing” more than 50,000 jobs across the continent.

Amazon is at the forefront when it comes to using robotics in the workplace. The company announced two new additions in October last year: Sequoia, a Roomba-like machine designed to identify and store inventory and reduce order processing time; and Digit, a 5-foot 9-inch 143-pound robot from Agility Robotics.

Digit has been especially controversial, given its human-like design. It can walk forward, backward, and sideways, squat and bend, and move, grasp, and handle items using its arm/hand-like clasps.

La Rovere echoed the same statements we’ve heard from Amazon in the past: that the robots are there to help employees by carrying out repetitive tasks, lifting heavy objects, and reducing walking distances.

“In turn, our employees can learn new skills, they can learn new competencies, they can acquire new capabilities that allow them to progress towards their career objectives,” he added, noting that 700 new categories of jobs have been created through the use of this technology.

This isn’t the first time someone has defended Amazon’s robots. Damion Shelton, CEO of Agility Robotics, said in December that the health of businesses using these robots was far more dire than any perceived fears about job replacement. As a reminder, Amazon has a near $2 trillion market cap and its annual gross profit for 2023 was more than $270 billion.

As for other forms of automation tech, it sounds as if La Rovere has yet to read Amazon CEO Andy Jassy’s recent shareholder letter, in which he mentions GenAI and AI over 30 times before talking about more cost-cutting measures being implemented at the company. There is also a slew of reports on the number of jobs that will be lost as a result of AI and automation.

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