Skip to comments.Could You Soon Lose Your Job to a Robot? [Answer: don't let fearmongers demoralize you]
Posted on 08/04/2014 7:43:27 AM PDT by PapaNew
Is the increasing automation of our economy a threat to American wages and jobs? Should the American worker fear the rise of the robots? No, not really.
Eighty years ago, John Maynard Keynes warned that society faced a new disease of technological unemployment in which the means of economizing the use of labor [were] outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor. Much more recently, Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute wrote about how robot workers could tear Americas social fabric. Strain worries that machines could eliminate the livelihoods of millions of less-skilled workers.
These fears are misplaced. In reality, technological advances will improve living standards and working conditions for the vast majority of Americans.
Computers have certainly automated many tasks. From travel to banking to manufacturing to retail, machines now perform formerly human tasks quickly and reliably. Technology has eliminated countless jobs in the U.S. and around the world. Even Foxconn, famous for its vast iPhone-assembly lines in Taiwan, plans to install a million robots.
But almost as quickly as technology has eliminated some jobs, it has created new ones. Like developing smartphone apps. Or shuttling Uber passengers. Or moving inventory in Amazon warehouses. Contrary to Keyness prediction of 15-hour workweeks, the economy has always found new uses for displaced workers.
Why? Human wants have proved insatiable. Most Americans could work 15 hours a week and make as much as the average Joe in the 1930s did. But few Americans today would accept that standard of living in a much smaller dwelling with no TV, no air conditioning, and certainly no smartphone. All these extras require workers to produce them.
Indeed, automation drives growth in living standards. In order for the average American to consume more, the average worker must produce more. Automation enables businesses to make more goods with less labor, which means more output and higher living standards.
A construction worker who can operate a backhoe will make much more than one using only a shovel. An economy with backhoes will also be able to build a lot more.
In a world with more automation, not only will work still exist, itll be safer. Computers have automated many of the more-demanding manual-labor jobs in the economy, and workplace injuries and deaths have fallen steadily as machines took over these more physically dangerous tasks. Labor-saving technology benefits society.
Of course some people will wind up worse off than before. Some whose jobs get automated will have difficulty finding work that pays as much. And higher demand for non-routine skills will put less-skilled workers at a relative disadvantage. But the vast majority of workers will almost certainly come out ahead.
Adding my two cents...
Hi Tech and free trade are not the enemy of Americans nor the economy. Free from poverty-creating government interference, the market economy is robust and dynamic and ever-growing. You don't stifle it, you ride it.
The free market economy is freedom in action. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are not the land of slavish government coercion and the home of cowardly government dependency. When did freedom ever not require bravery and risk? But a growing economy means greater wealth and greater opportunity for the average American than anywhere else in the world, as it always has.
Don't let the socialists and collectivists scare you away from your God-given endowments of freedom. Welcome technological advancement and change and embrace the greater opportunities it brings.
“Technological Threat”, the hilarious animation from 1988, which has a strong nod to the great cartoonist Tex Avery.
In the long run, we all adapt, and will find our places under new economic conditions.
In the short run, there are dislocations. Key examples would be the many industrial workers who lost their jobs due to our exporting industries overseas.
There are plans in the works to cut back employment in places such as fast food, as automatic ordering systems will reduce the need for workers. These people will also have to find something else to do.
I think many people focus on the short term dislocations which happen, and not looking at where we end up in the long term. We hear about people being laid off, but don’t get the follow up of where they end up later on. We hear about communities or “company towns” suffering economically if a factory closes down, but don’t hear about how the community and people there adapt to the new circumstances.
What if you’re already a robot?
No but I could be the guy making sure the robot that takes your job doesn’t also kill you.
I think things are different this time. Previous technological jumps opened up possibilities, there was always more stuff for people to do. This wave is looking like it’s multiplying force so much there just won’t be more things to do. And it’s really not the robots I see killing jobs, it’s 3D printers, those have the serious potential of rendering the entire supply chain for our basic good obsolete.
We’ll see, but the more we get productivity increases without unemployment decreases the more I’m thinking that these jobs are just plain gone for good.
Then you’ll have a lot of friends.
Some, yes, but replaced by more and better jobs. Retraining? Possibly, but, again, freedom is all about breaking new ground and pioneering new fields of endeavor.
We will all soon look like the population of the ship on Wall-E.
Not necessarily. Technology is a force multiplier, eventually it will multiply to a level where we simply don’t need as many people as we have to provide for all the people we have. If our tech level gets to the point where we have fully problem solving robots and replicators it will take very few people to maintain them, and not much for anybody else to do. There won’t be anything to be retrained in, except how to pass time knowing you’ll never have a job.
Half the argument always produces half the answer.
The first missing part of this argument is ratio. In the 1980’s, General Motors had 250,000 employees. We won't need 250,000 smart phone app developers - probably ever. Technology produces better, higher paying jobs - just a lot less of them.
And the second missing part of this argument is supply. That college educated two income couple down the street has already started a college fund for their son, even though he was only born two weeks ago. He may grow up to develop smart phone apps.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, a day laborer just dropped his fifth kid - with his third woman. And he probably has three more to go. And none of them will program smart phones. Ditto for most of the 100,000 or so that have slipped across the boarder in the last two months.
Hi Tech IS a part of this problem, but only as a contributor to the complete lack of personal responsibility that is now considered ‘acceptable’ in our society. Acceptable hell, the current administration all but encourages it.
When the second American revolution begins (hopefully after I am dead) it will largely be over jobs. We will have tons of totally unqualified people, and a much smaller number of Hi tech jobs. And when we simply run out of money to appease them with welfare, the shooting will start.
You’re speaking from a fearful outlook that has no basis of historical fact. The expanding economy of the free market and technological advice has always meant MORE, not less, opportunity, leaving the average American better off than the average person anywhere else in the world.
Again, as I replied to another, youre speaking from a fearful outlook that has no basis of historical fact. The expanding economy of the free market and technological advice has always meant MORE, not less, opportunity, leaving the average American better off than the average person anywhere else in the world.
Retraining may be needed for some, but, again, freedom is all about breaking new ground and pioneering new fields of endeavor. In the long run, everyone is better off although there may be inconvenience in the short run. But that’s the price we pay to be free and prosperous.
Specifically, I'm thinking the current tempest in a teapot with Fast Food Workers demanding higher wages. $15/hr = $30K/year, or about what it would cost for a single first-level tech to keep a double handful of automated kiosks going.
“Again, as I replied to another, youre speaking from a fearful outlook that has no basis of historical fact.”
No true at all. In fact history is full of such examples. Look into the fall of the Roman Empire for one.
When you live in a desert, you expect there to be no water. When you produce dumbasses, you expect there to be jobs for dumbasses. When you have many more dumbasses than jobs, empires crumble and wars begin.
Here’s a couple of clear indications that will tell you we have chosen to turn away from madness and towards a hi-tech future:
- When having another kid stops being a way to get a raise to a welfare mother.
- When liberalism is banished from our schools and we suddenly put a real emphasis on math and science.
- When we make training available for free, and we banish the “IT”S NOT YOUR FAULT” mentality from society.
When those things happen, hi tech won’t be a contributing threat, but rather a part of a bright future. Till then, keep your marksmanship skills up and your ammo cabinet stocked.
Not sure what you're saying here. Usually if it is automated, it is more cost-effective which multiplied, translates into better living for the average consumer and more job opportunities for the average worker.
Raise the minimum wage to $20 and see how fast automation replaces jobs...
Its gonna have to be a robot that is programmed to put up with a lot of jerks.....
"Is freedom anything else than the right to live as we wish?
Can’t use minimum wage as a gauge of the benefits or harm of automation. There is no good that comes from the government interference of wage and price controls which skews the information and benefits of the free market.
Who knows, maybe they’ll be robot pimps like the guy in “Paper Chase.”
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