The new e-commerce boom has created more jobs in the U.S. than brick-and-mortar stores have cut. But, the new jobs seem to be less headline-grabbing even though they pay more because workers are so much more productive. Historically speaking, more and better-paying jobs have been created with the introduction of automation.
Most people assume companies use automation to make more of the same, only cheaper. In reality, automation almost always offers new and improved products. Companies almost always have to hire more people as customers rush to purchase the new products. In this tech-era, our worst fears have created the expression “robot apocalypse”. But the inventor of a mechanical knitting machine was refused a patent by Queen Elizabeth I (1589), for fear that manual knitters would be put out of work. New factories with rows and rows of machines operated by humans soon followed. Even an executive at Wells, Fargo & Co. predicted (1970s) that ATMs would lead to fewer branches with even fewer staff. By 2004, the average branch used one-third fewer workers than in 1988, but total branches rose 43%, employing more tellers to conduct “relationship banking”.
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Amazon’s key benefit of deploying robots in their new fulfillment center in Baltimore is to reduce the demand for space, not labor. In fact, Amazon recently conducted a nationwide jobs fair where they received 100,000 applications. Amazon has already made 40,000 job offers from those applications. It is predicted that 47% of U.S. jobs are at “high risk” of automation over the next couple of decades. Most prognosticators also say new professions and occupations will replace these jobs – these jobs will not completely disappear. Future employment risks can be mitigated: 1). take advantage of new technologies’ productivity, jobs, and wages; 2). invest in more adult education to protect workers whose jobs are most at risk; and 3). share the rewards of increased productivity fairly among the population (especially since robots won’t earn wages and benefits, a “robot tax” could support “shared benefits of productivity”). The question may not be, “is a robot about to take my job?”, but “what massive benefits are new technologies going to bring to us?”.
Watch these videos on robotics and AI likely to enhance most jobs, not merely replace:
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NECA Technology – the Project for Applied and Disruptive Technology, explores the world of technology and keeps members informed of what’s happening today, and of what will be launched in the not too distant future. Dr. Joey Shorter has an extensive background in education and experience in translating the work of academics into understandable, practical ideas.