I was arguing with one of my friends on the premise that robots will in years to come pick every single job that humanity has ever identified with. I believe that in 20 or more years to come, nothing would be left of human jobs as many, if not all jobs would be lost due to automation. Technological advancement is a living threat to human jobs. This very good friend of mine is a taxi driver and he was afraid he could be the next possible victim whose job could be taken because of automation.
The uncertainty that looms because of the industrial revolution was not as great as the one posed by the rapid technological advancement. Robots parade wharehouses, Artificial Intelligence handles basic bookkeeping, manages investment portfolios and does legal research. This brings us to the question, “what is the future of jobs human beings have previously identified themselves with, such as the ones mentioned above . Human jobs are increasingly being threatened by rapid technological advancement. Human jobs are lost to robots and Artificial Intelligence on daily bases.
A new world order
Technology is creating a new world which many people are still yet to fit into. In decades past, technology has benefited individuals as well as economies the world over. One of the effects of technological revolution is how it continues to alter the labour market. Technological advancement is defined as being able to improve standard of living by altering the production process and increasing the level of production with relatively fewer resources. Some people believe that the rapid change in technology has been destroying jobs faster than ther are created. Some people notwithstanding, hold a contrary opinion.
Maybe not for all jobs
The degree of automation varies from one job to another. According to McKinney Global Institute some jobs are safer to automate. For example, people managing positions have just a 9% automation potential. Professionals involving unpredictable physical work has a 25% risk of automation while the most vulnerable workers are those responsible for data collection or processing (64%). Those who are tasked with predictable physical labour have 78 % chances of being automated. Professionals such as sewing machine operators and agricultural product sorters and graders are said to have the worst rate of automation which stands at 100%. Around 80% of stock markets are said to be using robot traders.
This is a threat to human professional traders. Also, a total of about 570,000 robo-sugery operations are said to have been carried out in 2017 and the figures are doubling as years go by. The number of jobs lost to robots because of technological advancement is frightening. With the rate at which new technologies are coming up, 45% of activities performed by employees will cease to exist if these technologies are fully implemented. For example the number of jobs that would be lost if self-driving cars storm the street is something most people would not even want to imagine.
People who were previously employed as taxi drivers will be rendered jobless. It is reported that 4 million driving jobs are at risk in the US. Also, the construction industry is slowly and steadily hushing human sensitive jobs that required heavy presence of human beings. Giant edifices like football stadiums can now be constructed offsite and brought to the site only for assembly. Most construction companies are increasingly adopting this mode of construction. Note that implementation of a new technology offers the company competitive advantage over their immediate competitors. There is increase in pressure with deadlines and these companies will rather adopt new technologies that guarantee fast work than depend on human labour.
Alarming predictions and statistics
There is the increase use of package delivery drones, voice activated digital assistants’ hospital robots and a whole lot of other machines that are increasingly snatching what once gave the human race employment. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots. The UK for instance could loose 35% of its jobs in the next 20 years. The world economic forum on its part predicts that Artificial Intelligence and robotics will take more than 5 million jobs worldwide by 2020. By 2030 a total of 800 million jobs would be lost worldwide according to the BBC. The statistics above give reasons for fear and panic that currently grips mankind as automation shows no signs of sparing jobs for humans. Technology is poised to replace white collar jobs like law reporters and to a large extent, doctors and teachers. Nevertheless, the rate of automation is comparatively lower with jobs that need a lot of human interactivity such as bartender doctors and teachers. The examples above show the inverse relationship between technology and employment or technology and jobs.
The use of Robots is Less developed countries
Job loss due to automation is much more glaring in the developed world than in the less developed world. This is because developed countries have the necessary financial abilities to invest in automation. For this reason, jobs in less developed countries that may be exposed to automation are still comparatively safer as the funds necessary to invest in automation is not there. However, according to a report by CNN, the importation of robots by some African countries is posing a threat to the employment of young people. According to the report, an estimated number of 60,000 robots are imported to Africa yearly. Though the robotic industry is still comparatively young in Africa, it is growing rapidly by the year. In some part of Africa, robots are mining, controlling traffic and even fighting deadly diseases like the Ebola crisis in Liberia.
A 2016 world bank research forecasts that more than half of the jobs in some parts of Africa are at the risk of automation with Ethiopia leading the highest proportion globally which stands at 85%. In the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, robots are increasingly controlling traffics. These robots have practically eliminated the need for human traffic wardens as they are fully adaptable to all weather conditions and can detect pedestrians. There is increased use of drones in countries like Uganda and Tanzanian in the Agricultural sector. These drones with sensors, can detect problems in plants ten days before humans can. This implies that those previously employed for this task are redundant as a result. What about South Africa? Robots are increasingly used in the mining industry, the case in Botswana is like that of South Africa as robots are used in mining diamonds. The cases of Botswana and the South Africa are more like an opportunity since robots are employed in mines with depth that are unsafe for humans. This shows that the job loss due to automation in Africa is steadily rising though not as much as is case with the developed countries. The jobs lost to robots may hit new heights if most African countries decide to invest more on robots as Ethiopia is doing.
Generally low skilled workers are the most harmed as far as technological advancement is concerned. Robots and computing advancement are regularly replacing workers undertaking tasks that are repetitive in nature. Unemployment is equally on the rise as concerns those that are mainly based around administrative service work and even construction as earlier mentioned. That notwithstanding, employment opportunities are on the rise for those whose skills are complementary to new technology. For example, workers skilled and educated in Information Technology and engineering related disciplines. This present a rare occasion where technology and jobs or technology and employment are moving toward the same direction. It equally suggests that human beings can equally train themselves to complement Artificial Intelligence or robots. Technology is helping those with greater analytical problem solving abilities as well as creative skills.
As the onslaught from the rapid advancement in technology continue to threaten human jobs, many people are pondering about what to do to stop or perhaps mitigate the effects of automation on human jobs. Many people have proposed a number of solutions that stems from the individual level and at the level of policy makers.
Dealing with the impact of automation
At the level of policy makers various governments in a bid to limit the number of jobs lost to robots because of automation should impose a robot tax. Countries like South Korea are imposing robot tax on companies that are indiscriminately using robots in place of humans. For this reason, manufacturing robots, self-driving cars, delivery drones and anything that comes close to a classic robot which may be replacing any category of human jobs should be targeted. This policy will give the government the ability to reallocate these tax funds to technical education for example, or even supporting those laid off because of robotics and artificial intelligence. This does not mean every robot in use should be taxed. In the case where robots are doing jobs that previously exposed human beings to risk, such robots should not be taxed. For example robots that mine, say diamond from deep mines that could expose human beings to risk.
Taxing robot-using companies
However, there is a heated debate as to which criterion should be used in determining what a robot is and how it could be taxed. The difficulty of defining what a robot is, is making the process of taxing robots a nightmare. That notwithstanding a robot tax could take the form of a tax that targets companies with high revenues or profits but a small workforce. No company will obviously want to be taxed discriminately because of its drive toward automation. The job loss due to automation will be minimal. This argument anchors on the fact that taxed robot will slow down the deployment of automation and give the society ample time to adjust for possible employment displacement. Another argument for, holds that robot tax would raise the necessary funds needed to keep governments going and to pay for the programs to deal with these displacements because of automation.
Using the Universal basic income policy
Another proposal to mitigate the effects of job loss due to automation according to the Business insider is that countries threatened by this phenomenon should institute a universal basic income policy. This idea suggests that every citizen irrespective of employment or income, receives a periodic check from the government, enough to sustain them. This policy should be supplemented by giving incentives to individuals wishing to start a new business, change jobs, return to school or start a new career.
Another policy oriented solution to robots taking jobs from human beings includes the government taking the central stage to guarantee jobs for its citizens. This is a progressive proposal that would involve the government creating jobs chiefly in sectors that are not attractive to the private sector like the elderly and childcare, health education, that could sustain those who have been laid off because of automation.
Putting more emphasis on technology related studies
Job loss due to automation can equally be mitigated when the teaching curriculum is tilted towards teaching more technology related subjects which would train people to adapt to the world of robots and Artificial Intelligence. Students should be encouraged not to shy away from subjects such as mathematics. The training course should be aimed at developing technological skills such as programming or data analysis likewise skills that are complementary to machines and robots. These schools should place attention to critical thinking and social skills. Critical thinking is such a desirable skill that provides the path way to better analytical thinking, better judgement and better decision making. You need the social skills to collaborate with and motivate others in a group, manage client relations, exercise leadership resolve conflicts and develop social networks. Students should equally be trained on how to work with machines and other emerging technologies, remember “if you cannot beat them, join them”. This way, technology and employment or technology and jobs will head toward the same direction. In 20 or more years to come our success will be determined by our abilities to interact with robots or cope with Artificial Intelligence.
Using empathy as a weapon
At the individual level, people must develop empathy related skills to fight the onslaught from robots and artificial intelligence. We are distinguished as humans because of our ability to empathise. It is undeniable that robots can perform basic human interactions such as customer service via telephone, but no matter how sophisticatedly developed they may be, they will not have the innate ability to connect with and understand with other humans on emotional level. A robot is a robot and a human being is a human being.
Robots cannot have that human touch so much so that they can identify themselves with the daily problems human beings are passing through. They cannot for example understand body language, working in teams and effective communication. All these qualities that robots are far from ever possessing are still very relevant and necessary for positions that require an innate understanding of human emotions. For example, you cannot see a robotic priest imparting wisdom or guidance to the masses, but a human priest can do that perfectly. In addition to this, everyone should try as much as possible to be creative. Having a creative mind and imagination means that you have the capabilities to dream up new inventions and ideas that are not in existence today. Even the much talked about robots and artificial intelligence are a creative idea of people like you and i. Creating something that is unique and capable of solving the problems encountered by human beings daily will not only be appreciated but rewarded. Imagine you develop a technological system that can solve the problem of robots taking jobs from human beings.
We have talked much about technology and employment, presenting the two concepts as going parallel to each other. One affecting the other adversely. Denying the fact that technological advancement which has brought about automation has no benefits to humans is like giving a dog a bad name to hang It. The paragraphs below present the opportunities or benefits brought about because by automation.
Automation has increased safety.
Some jobs that are handled by human beings such as mining jobs increasingly expose humans to unprecedented risk. With the introduction of robots in the mining industry the risk of people incurring injuries or harm during mining is greatly reduced. We have heard of numerous accident in mines in South Africa for example. Having automated machines means having less employees who perform task that can be hazardous and injury prone. The cry of robots taking jobs from human beings must quench if we are to look at them from this perspective. They are instead taking risky jobs from human beings. With the use of automation related technology, it is possible to improve the working conditions and safety within your production process or plant. It can limit health and safety risks, get rid of manual handling and cut down the risk of repetitive strain related injuries.
Another benefit of automated technology is that there is increased competition. Competition is what keeps any company or business in the market. To be outstanding you must present something that is unique from your competitors. With automation technology, the production process is not error prone as is the case with human beings handling the same task. Since there is no error in production when it comes to automated technology, the final product’s quality is consistent. This will positively impact sales and eventually profits. Also, the speed of production is hastened, leading to the reduction of time required to produce the goods. Though we may regret because of the jobs lost to robots we can look at the increase competitiveness that has accompanied automation.
Eliminates labour crises
Also, another glaring advantage of automation is that there is no labour crisis. Many companies have almost been grounded because of strike action from their workers. There is usually uncertainty when workers of a company or factory launch a strike action. This is one of the major problems many companies around the world face. There is an unending demand for better working conditions, or better pay . We may want to forget about the issue of robots taking jobs from human beings and think about the future of these companies that could be jeopardized as a result of a strike actions by their workers. A robot will always be ready to work for 24 hours and even over time without demanding extra compensation unlike humans.
Reduces cost of production
Another advantage of automation is that the cost of production is less as compared to a situation where human beings are employed do the work a robot for example is employed to do. The aim and end of most companies is to cut down cost to the lowest minimum and maximize profit. Manual task given that they are performed one-at-a-time and at a slower rate than an automated task, will cost more. With automated technology, a company can accomplish more by utilising fewer resources. Humans may resist the issue of robots taking jobs meant for them, but an owner of a factory or company for example will think of the possible way of cutting down cost and maximizing profits.
Increased production capacity
Another advantage of automation is that there is increase production capacity. Automation increases your production capacity as machines can be set to work round the clock without the help of humans. Automated machines can run faster and produce more accurately made products with fewer, or no imperfections unlike human beings. Also, automated machines do not have breaks or such things like sick leave of maternity leave. They work nonstop and increase production
Despite the over whelming advantages of automation there are still a lot of fears. Apart from the normal job loss due to automation, there are fears that the gap between the rich and the poor may widen. Those people or companies that have the financial capabilities to employ automation related technology will only grow richer while those that are not able to employ this technology will not only go out of business but equally get poorer as a result. Conflicts around the world have been caused by class tussle and this tussle is always between the “haves” and the “have nots”. There is equally the fear of social unrest in countries that have embraced automation technology as those who are laid off because of automation will obviously agitate. Equally the financial disparities between developed and less developed countries will equally widen since automation is widely embraced in developed countries partly because of their financial capabilities.
We must learn as from now onward that technology and jobs or technology and employment most at times don’t move toward the same direction. We need to develop personal as well social skills before we are accommodated in the automation world.