automation

In 1790 ninety percent of the United States labor force was involved in farming and agriculture. Today they account for only two and a half percent of the workforce, but we have more food being produced than ever before. This is due to machine automation allowing less people to produce more goods. Automation has already begun in manual labor jobs across many sectors such as construction, mining, manufacturing, and agriculture. Even in the stock market ninety percent of trades are done by high frequency trader (HFT) robots. This allows people to take up more specialized and higher paying jobs, which is how the economy grows, improving the general standard of living. However, we are still in the infancy of machine automation and how it will affect our lives in the near future. We need to understand how it will affect us and our workforce to prepare for our success in life. Effects of automation in the retail sector can easily be seen in our everyday life. The days of human cashiers checking out your items are coming to an end. Ten human cashiers are being replaced by nine self-checkout machines with one human watching over it. Likewise, at almost every fast-food restaurant they are installing screens for you to place your own order and pay without the need of a human cashier. Likewise, the cooking process at fast food and almost any other restaurant can be easily automated once the technology soon becomes cost effective. Even Amazon is rolling out brick and motor stores where you don’t need checkout, they have sensors that detect when you leave the store with an item and charge your Amazon account for it. These Amazon stores don’t require sales peroneal either and they have robot workers to stock shelves. As time goes on technology improves, this is not the apex but simply the beginning of things to come. Six percent of the U.S. workforce is employed as either a cashier or retail salesperson, and eight percent work as restaurant staff. These jobs are done, it just hasn’t been realized by the general public yet. Most people are aware of automation coming to the transportation sector in the form of self-driving cars. However, this isn’t some distant dream, they are already here. In 2018 alone self-driving cars clocked two million miles of recorded driving on public roads. Once regulation and price allow mass production of automated transportation, driving a car will become a thing of the past. Six percent of the workforce are employed as truck drivers and all these jobs will soon be gone. Why pay a human driver who needs at least minimum wage when you can pay only the cost of electricity for a driver who never sleeps, never eats, never needs to use the bathroom, and never makes mistakes. Not only will truck drivers be affected but also the entire taxi and ride sharing industry. Uber is heavily invested in creating a fleet of autonomous cars and even specifically hires drivers as contractors instead of employees so as to avoid legal issues when they no longer need human drivers. Professional jobs are also at risk of automation. IBM has been working on an algorithmic robot to replace the need of general practice doctors. Doctors make countless mistakes every year, however machines make much less. Doctor robots can learn every symptom and every disease in a matter of seconds and even transfer patient data and experiences between each other instantly. No human doctor can compete with that. Likewise, why would anyone make appointments to go visit a doctor when you will soon be able to get a checkup from technology you already own such as a phone and smartwatch, which can already track your vitals. Pharmacist robots are also being created and similarly can learn the effects and interactions of millions of drugs in an instant, making mistakes at much lower rates than humans. Together this will erase around another one million jobs from the workforce. Not only will healthcare professionals be affected but legal professionals as well. In a law firm very little of the job is actually presenting cases in court or giving advice to clients. Most of the job is paperwork. Discovery is a major part of every law firm involving going through mountains of documents in order to find one mistake or one inconsistency to bring forward in a case. Paralegal workers are the ones often doing this work; however, automated bots can do this work much faster and without mistakes. Many top law firms are already using these bots to handle the bulk of paperwork and discovery today. Not all jobs are going to be replaced however. Automation is better than humans in objective and task-based jobs but not in jobs requiring human emotion and interaction. Nurses for example are at one of the lowest levels of risk to be replaced by automation. Nurses take care of the day to day interaction with patients and a large part of their job is to connect with patients and help them feel understood. Teachers likewise will probably never be replaced by automation as they not only teach facts but care for the learning experience of their students. Human teachers can adjust the teaching style from class to class or student to student based on their needs. Automated systems are not able to this as effectively as humans can. Also, front-line managers will still be needed, however they may find themselves overseeing robots and automated systems more than overseeing humans. As we go forward, we need to understand automation and how it will affect our futures in the workforce. Large amounts of the population will find themselves unemployed, not because they don’t want to work or can’t work, but because they are unemployable. One popular solution to this problem is universal basic income (UBI). Where, as an example, every citizen of the United States over the age of 18 would receive two thousand dollars a month to support basic living needs, regardless of who they are or financial well-being. This would allow all people to survive and still allow the ambitious and skilled to climb the financial ladder. Likewise, it would allow some of the unemployed to survive while they retrain into a viable job. Automation isn’t a necessarily bad thing; it will improve the standard of living. However, we need to keep in mind how it will affect us and society as a whole.

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