Will Workers Sink or Swim?

It’s remarkable how quickly robotics, artificial intelligence, and other forms of automation are advancing. Automation can do more than ever before, and in more fields than many thought possible. Agriculture, manufacturing, service industries, construction, and even restaurants are all implementing automation. While some view this as a good thing, others find an increase in automation stressful.

After all, more machines mean fewer jobs for humans, right?

Will an increase in automation lead to mass numbers of unemployed workers, or will workers find other ways to make a living?

Automation displaces human workers

Automation has reduced the number of jobs for human workers in certain fields, and it’s practically gotten rid of some jobs altogether (when was the lat time you called up your local ice cutter or travel agent?).

Take manufacturing for example. The industry continues to grow, while employment does the opposite. Industrial robots are more capable than ever before, and manufacturers need fewer human workers to meet consumer demand.

Why are robots replacing human workers?

Automation provides a number of benefits over human laborers.

  • Machines are cheaper in the long run. You don’t have to pay them minimum wage for 2 or 3 decades, there’s just the initial investment.
  • Industrial machines don’t get injured, so there’s no workman’s comp.
  • Robots don’t need breaks
  • They aren’t paid overtime or holiday pay
  • Machines work faster and more efficiently than people.
  • In terms of production, they are all around better.

The real question is, why wouldn’t you replace your workers with machines if you have the option?

Which jobs are in danger of automation?

Not all workers need to worry about automation, however. Automation is more of a threat to certain people. Teachers, engineers, and professions that require highly skilled and educated workers, are relatively safe from automation. It’s low-skill laborers, however, who should be worried.

Will automation lead to mass unemployment?

The industrial robot market is projected to see a lot of growth over the next few years. But it’s not just industrial automation that’s going to displace workers. Everyone from cab drivers, to fast-food employees, to secretaries could see their jobs cease to exist in a matter of years.

There are a couple of outcomes to consider.

  • Will automation continue to displace low-skill workers until there’s nothing left for people to do? will low-skill laborers simply bounce around from task to task, until every conceivable job has been automated, until they are left unable to contribute to society with their skill sets?
  • Automation will displace low-skill workers, but increased automation will create new jobs that do not yet exist, and society will always find a place for the low-skill workforce.

History shows us that machinery hasn’t sidelined humanity in the past. We’ve always found a way to redistribute the workforce. Of course, automation is happening much faster today than it ever has in previous history. Will workers sink or swim? Let us know what you think in the comments below!