Are We All Destined To Lose Our Jobs To Machines?
from the simplifying-things-a-bit-too-much dept
Combining a bunch of different concepts we’ve spoken about here, Salon is running an article looking at Marshall Brain’s fear that robots are going to take over every imaginable job and leave us all with nothing to do all day. As we’ve discussed before, this is incredibly simplified and unlikely to happen. It reminds me of the whole “paperless office” concept – which has actually brought us to the point where we use more paper than ever before. All that automation does is free up the more tedious jobs, and opens up new opportunities for other, more fulfilling jobs. Brain, also, is hardly an unbiased party. He’s trying to sell a novel on this idea – and is also trying to patent the idea of robotic workers. The article takes the example of the self-checkout counter (another topic we’ve discussed here a few times), and points out that most of the places that have installed them haven’t let go any workers. Instead, they’ve been working on making the overall shopping experience more pleasant by actually putting people out there to help. It’s really not that hard to figure this out. There are some things – usually personal service – that really just can’t be automated in any reasonable way. The article also quotes a union guy who claims (incorrectly, I believe) that consumers are going to revolt against self-checkout machines and will demand humans. However, this is missing the point. These machines automate repetitive jobs. All the people who seem to be afraid about the loss of jobs on this issue seem to think so lowly of the people in these jobs to believe the only thing they can do is push the same button over and over again. I’d like to believe most people are capable of slightly more than that.