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The fear and fortune of automation

Austin Bell, Technology Editor, Puma Press

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” a quote by the polymath Leonardo Da Vinci, is what the human race embodies. For as long as we have been on this planet we have made great inventions not to prove a point, but to ultimately make life easier for the next generation. In the present day, there has been a fair mix of manual labor and integrated technology to help working employees. What was once a common sight on the factory lines, automation, commonly in the form of robots, is starting to appear in more human-like roles such as bank tellers, servers and drivers. While there are some people and companies who are in favor of automation and wish to take it to the next level, there are those who fear its effect on the economy and the potential displacement of workers.

The Fear of Automation

The average American works approximately eight hours per day, and during that eight hours, many things can happen. Workers need to take breaks; they could also make mistakes or worse, injure themselves on the job. With automation and robotics, the next phase of workers won’t have to take breaks or fear any injuries.

According to a CQ Researcher article by Patrick Marshall, “Robots’ impending presence in restaurants is one sign of a trend in the U.S. economy: Driven by rapid advances in robotics, automation is spreading to all facets of American life. Machines are diagnosing diseases and performing surgery, flying aircraft and even writing financial reports. The progress has robot enthusiasts excited over potential gains for the economy and productivity, while some economists and academics worry about job losses and other disruptions to the economy.”

What jobs will be safe and how will the policymakers in the government react is what the opposition of an automated workforce worries about.

In the same CQ Researcher article, it stated that “two University of Oxford researchers recently published a study estimating that 47 percent of the current jobs in the United States are at risk of being automated over the next 10 to 20 years, with the jobs most immediately in danger being those that have few technical requirements, such as telemarketing and office clerical work.”

The Fortune of Automation

For the people in favor of automation there comes an idea that automation will increase efficiency. Paradise Valley Community College economics professor Dr. Peter Thiel stated, “Automation is the heart of the industrial revolution. It is a process of constant reinvention where new markets are being created.”

Writing for monthly magazine Control Engineering, journalist Chris Vavra stated, “The need for automation will always increase. There isn’t a trend to add physical labor to manufacturing processes; there is a trend of adding more automation. Industry advancements help build a case to migrate what’s obsolete and help push life cycles ahead. Technology advancements increase efficiency and productivity and build a stronger case for increasing automation based on return on investment (ROI).”

Another idea CQ Researcher endorses is that automation would be a leading job creator. “Robotics will allow some companies to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States because automation lowers labor costs and allows firms to compete with low-wage competitors overseas.”

The Future of Automation

The real inherent problem from each side is whether there will be true disruption in the U.S economy or if there will be a substantial push for more automation in the United States. While this might be an important factor and issue for the U.S. now and in the coming years, many countries have already made huge strides in investing in automation and robotics. According to the International Federation of Robotics, The United States ranks seventh in industrial robots employed while the top three leading countries are South Korea, Japan and Germany.

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The fear and fortune of automation