So we go back to 1811 when the Luddites started to destroy weaving machinery as a form of protest, fearing that they would lose their jobs. The British government crushed them down quickly.
Then we jump up to contemporary America and its ‘Rusty Belt’ where lots of American industrial workers have already lost their jobs due to cheap labor options from China and elsewhere in South East Asia. By the way, they voted for Donald Trump and they will in 2020. Poor fellas of the ‘Fly-over states’… This is why I don’t like globalization: I prefer ‘Made in USA’ over ‘Made in China’. Period. Yes, I understand that ‘Made in China’ actually stands for ‘Assembled in China’ as money and technology come from America. Still, I am emotional on that.
Finally, in the future robots and androids would probably take over our jobs leaving us jobless, hopeless, desperate, etc.
Are we in danger as species? Will A.I. replace us on Earth?
Isaac Azimov described a society hating the Spacers, people who had left the Earth to establish colonies on other planets, and their creatures, robots, in his brilliant books ‘Caves of Steel’ and ‘Naked Sun’, reflecting our fears of the future.
I am not a futurist but I believe in our creativity. The creativity of human beings. You can’t lay back all your life. At some point you start to think, to move, to do, to create… We love to reach the stars even if seems to be impossible and impractical. Go over the horizon. This is our nature: we’re not lazy. We’re emotional and this is the roots of our creativity. And this is something, in my opinion, that would always give us, the humans, an upper hand in any imaginary fight with robots. This means that people would always find something to do, i.e. jobs, to entertain themselves. Some professions would go, some would come. It’s been happening throughout the history of the civilization. Robots/A.I. would be our assistance, not opposition.
P.S. No fear. In case it comes to a fight we will beat bad robots and good robots will assist us.
P.P.S. I would worry more about other people taking jobs away from us, not robots.
We will adapt…..
In the early 1970s, I remember vividly watching a very popular BBC programme called “Tomorrow’s World”. It featured new inventions and scientific ideas in a weekly half-hour episode.
This particular Thursday, (why do I remember what day of the week it was?) I watched in wonder as one of those new-fangled desk-top computers was being demonstrated.
Unbelievably, the presenter, good old James Burke, suggested that within a couple of decades, these
fantastic machines would be in all offices throughout the land. As a result, he said, the thinking is that we will all have far more leisure time, and our working week will probably be down to a mere 15-20 hours per week. There would, of course, also be huge implications for jobs, as the cool computer would be taking over so many of them.
The logic appeared fine, but of course the reality turned out completely different. Instead of more leisure time, the computer only enabled all of us to be more efficient, and we all ended up working much longer hours, even though our productivity was amazing compared to 20 years previously.
And the job losses simply didn’t materialise. Yes, jobs got redefined, people were redeployed, (and there was a whole new IT industry that developed), but there were fewer people unemployed at the end of the century than when the computer first made a regular appearance. However, there is a caveat – figures do show that for all the earning capacity available today, few if any new jobs need to be created.
But I still don’t see why robots and other automation should cause a world-wide epidemic of unemployment as many are suggesting.
I read somewhere that, in the last 60 years, automation has only completely wiped out one occupation: Lift operators (Elevator operators).
So jobs won’t entirely disappear, but many will be redefined. Whether some people will lack new skills required for new roles, we will have to wait and see.
Most observers suggest that jobs that are most at risk are the ones that are routine, repetitive and predictable. That does not just mean the unskilled and uneducated are the only ones affected. Many previously complex jobs are now carried out by people who are over-qualified for their task, which has been made so much more mundane by technology.
Drivers make up a substantial percentage of the world’s workforce, but as you can read elsewhere on this site, I don’t believe they are all going to be made redundant anytime soon.
I think there are many types of work that will be immune from immediate huge change – artists, scientists, musicians and the like, jobs that need creativity. Also, jobs that involve a human interaction, like nurses and other social services, therapists and the like – they too are less of a risk. As are unpredictable jobs, like tradesmen called out to different emergencies in all locations. Of course, computers can, or probably will, catch up with these skills, but will they completely replace humans? I honestly think not.
Maybe tomorrow’s working population will need to become extremely versatile, and develop as many talents and abilities as possible in order to survive.
One futurist I have read suggests that they’ll all have seven or eight jobs, with the average adult working for a number of companies simultaneously rather than working for one big corporation.
Technology will not be isolated in determining how things may change in the future. We also have climate change, which I believe is an even greater potential problem. We also have an ever-ageing population, with the baby-boomers of the 1950s and 1960s exiting the employment market.
Yes, I agree that the exponential rate of computerised progress means that jobs will be ever-more under pressure, but even though it may well be a rough ride, the past has shown that the industrialised world will adapt.
Here’s hoping that’s exactly what will happen.
The death of our economic system
In America we love our hamburgers, and major chains are locked in a never-ending war to provide the best burger. I was last back about two months ago and walked into a McDonalds only to discover a counter full of empty registers. There was one cashier and one person out by several screens to show us how to place our orders. It seems even eight or nine dollars an hour is too much to pay.
In the US there used to be a job called Paralegal. Well, there are probably some people who still have that job. I understand a major part of the job consisted of researching prior cases and finding legal precedence for the Attorney to argue in court. A job that has been taken over by special computers…. Automated out of existence.
The single most common job title in the USA is Driver. Trains, taxis, all trucks, even boats and jets, they all need people to drive them. Few of those millions of jobs will exists in ten years.
Cashier: when I shop at the Super Market I always stand in the line with the human cashier. The few poor people that remain will be gone soon enough. Of course, Kroger puts up these signs saying they have installed self-service scanners for your convenience. I suppose they also think me quite stupid.
Roger used to work for the BBC. I don’t know about those guys but the majority of the news you read on the Internet today wasn’t written by a reporter. Feed in a few facts and the computer will post the finished article on the website. This is even true with major news corporations.
My thesis: we may be the last generation to live in a capitalist system. Wages for the middle class have not risen from the mid-1970s. The top 61 people now have more wealth that the bottom half of the planet. But even that is not enough: We need to fire the few, underpaid people who remain.
In a few short years, there will be millions, and millions, and millions of unemployed people. No amount of job retraining will prepare citizens for jobs that no longer exist. This is not like the Industrial Revolution; we will not leave this farm for a new factory job.
I have read where some believe people will find jobs repairing these machines. Yes, we will need repair technicians. But if one person can look after one-hundred robots, what happens to the other 99 displaced people? Nothing is magically going to open up and even if it does, the robots will be there to fill the jobs.
The only rational thing I have heard is that the government should pass a robot tax to help the displaced. I don’t believe that will happen. The rich in the US just got another huge tax break and they damn sure are not going to give it back.
If nobody has a job, who is going to buy all these shiny widgets the robots produce? Like I said, we may be the last generation to live in a capitalist society.