Robots like Baxter are a work multiplier. Whereas before Vanguard required humans to do menial tasks, now they only need humans to train robots how to do something. But many more people are required to do the menial tasks than are required to train robots, so while no one may be losing their job now, they will need to find new productive tasks for them in the future—or eliminate their jobs. As robots like Baxter get better, too, manufactures will need even fewer employees to train them.
Remember in the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie when Charlie’s dad gets let go from his job because the factory had machines doing the work, but then at the end of the movie he becomes the guy who fixes the machines?
How did he go from a low-skilled job, a toothpaste-capper guy, to something high-skilled, the guy who fixes the toothpaste-capper robots, in such a short period of time? Did his wages go up for this level of work, or stay the same because he didn’t need to have high skills to fix toothpaste robots? And what about all the other people who used to cap the toothpaste tubes alongside him? Did they ever get new jobs? Surely the toothpaste factory didn’t hire them all back to fix machines. That’s Charlie’s dad’s job.
The question to ask is, when many of the jobs people depend on our automated, what kind of jobs will they do instead?
This is the uncomfortable truth about the new job marketplace. If it is less expensive for a company to have a computer or a robot do your job then you are in danger of losing your job. There’s a reason that software development has been in such high-demand. Efficiency.
Isn't it possible that a reason for high unemployment may actually be due to increased efficiency?— Sean Heber (@BigZaphod) November 15, 2012