Are Robots And Machines Really Taking Our Jobs?

With the rise of technology and the digital era came advanced machines and intelligent robots that are able to do things we once thought impossible. Some are even able to do jobs that otherwise humans would do. Because of this, it’s only natural that people are starting to worry about losing work in the future.

Memes such as the one below exemplify the concern people have and reinforce the belief that machines (or robots) are taking our jobs, but is that really true?

They’re coming to take our jobs

Influential people such as Bill Gates have stirred the matter by saying that,  …With time tecnology will undoubtedly replace the need for jobs particular low skilled jobs. In twenty years the labour market will be radically different. People need to be prepared for that.”

Many others are also forecasting a gloomy future for many workers. Researchers anticipate that by the year 2029 robot technology will have advanced to such a level that it will match human levels of intelligence. And Gartner predicted that a third of jobs will be lost to software, robots, intelligent machines.

People are calling this digital revolution the “Second Machine Age,”and it is in many ways very similar to the industrial revolution of 200 years ago. Kathleen Elkins , writer for the business insider says, ‘In the industrial revolutions machine power took over from muscle power, today computer power threatens to take over from mind power.’ This means robots and machines will be able to do even more complex jobs than we thought, and now not only do they threaten manual labour workers, they also threaten white-collar professions. Currently, there’s a BakeBot robot making fresh cookies at MIT; robots serving customers in China; and a robot named Baxter being a pro at Connect Four, among many other tasks.

Exterminating old jobs and creating new ones

You’ll be pleased to know that not everybody feels the same way. Their are other experts who predict that, yes this movement will eliminate old jobs, but it will also create new ones. When you think about it, we’ve always adopted new technologies from as far back as the 1930s. The car industry destroyed all the jobs of those who looked after horses and manned carriages, and more recently, the invention of smartphones made the jobs of pager makers redundant. But it didn’t throw them into poverty; they just found new, better jobs probably created by the technology/digital industry.

You could argue that tech companies employ fewer people, but indirectly they keep a considerable amount of people employed and have created millions more jobs for people to do. Just think of all the advertisements you see on the internet – someone is paid to make those. And how about the articles you read and apps you use on your smartphone – someone is paid to write and make those too. Then there’s eBay, Amazon and Etsy – websites like these make it so much easier for people to create their own businesses. And YouTube, this ground-breaking website allows bloggers and vloggers (jobs that didn’t exist before technology) to showcase their talents and expertise. In actual fact, it seems that people have more opportunities and power over their own success these days because of new technology.

History repeats itself

This is not to say that some workers in certain industries won’t lose their jobs, because in the next 20 years, this could be the case, (for unskilled workers in particular). But there will be plenty more to choose from, and some will be jobs that don’t even exist now. History has shown in the graph below from tradingeconomics.com that with every new advancement in technology there has been an employment boost, and currently British employment is at a record high. Though the blue line indicates that employment rate is decreasing, you must consider the state of the economy over the last decade. Also, put the blue line elsewhere and you could say that actually the employment rate has increased since Apple was founded in the 70s.

One thing that is for certain, looking at the graph, is that there’s been consistent highs and lows throughout out technological history, so it’s nothing new. We aren’t all going to be on the streets begging for change from robotic Lawyers and Doctors. If we continue to follow the same trend then we’ll experience periods of high and low unemployment throughout our lives.

 

In the future, robots may serve us food and clean up our streets; maybe even assist our Doctors, but it’s not something we should worry about. If anything, we should look forward to the time when humans won’t need to clean toilets and do manual labour, and instead are able to carry out jobs that haven’t even been created yet. Remember: No one even knew what an ‘app’ was 10 years ago, and now people are making millions through them.




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