Robots are taking over the world as we know it, well the business world. However, is that no worse than an apocalypse? Many people would agree that the robots taking our jobs and increasing unemployment would be a disastrous event, but would it really? This is not the first time in history where technology has taken over millions of jobs, this phenomenon is known as an industrial revolution. There has been a total of three industrial revolutions in history, and each one led to the development of new jobs and economic growth.
In fact, several economists believe that we are on the brink of the most revolutionary industrial revolution yet. As the world evolves humans always find a way to adapt to the changes, and in this case, new careers will be made to replace those that are lost, and some government monitoring to ensure stability. Should the government intervene by suppressing technological advancement, or allow the free market to fix itself? How will this affect the overall economy?
The industrialization period is bound to happen soon.
According to a recent study from Oxford Economics, there could be a total of 14 million robots put to work in China alone within the next 11 years (Taylor, Chloe “Robots could Take Over 20 Million Jobs by 2023, June 26, 2019). And even today, several large companies such as Amazon, Adidas, and Spread Farming Firm, have already implemented robots into their workforce (Sharp, Callum “4 Companies Using Robots”). Even though they all use robots, the robots perform very different tasks.
The artificial intelligence we have now is advanced enough to not only pack and manufacture goods but produce 30,000 heads of lettuce a day at the push of a button. This automation also extends into other areas of the American economy.
The American economy is heavily dependent on truck drivers, with a shocking number of over 8.7 million trucking-related jobs (Scott, Santes “Self-driving Trucks are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-driven Truck”). The economy of some small towns depends solely on truck drivers, and any decrease in the number of workers in this domain would cause their economy to shrink. Although new jobs and career paths would be created to replace the ones that were lost, skill requirements and geographical divisions often make those new jobs inaccessible to those who lost them. If improperly managed, the new innovations could lead to economic instability. New technologies such as these further increase the wealth inequality in America, by allowing those on top to acquire more and those on the bottom to struggle immensely.
From the point of view of a truck driver for example, automation has stolen their job and they do not have the skills to work in other more advanced domains. The few who might be willing to acquire more knowledge to adapt to the change and make themselves more valuable might not have the financial ability to do so. An example of an acceptable way for the government to intervene would be for them to fund the vocational training for the ones who lost their jobs due to artificial intelligence. Another way for the government to ensure the stability of the economy without hindering the advancement of technology would be by monitoring the implementation of robots in companies. Controlling the number of robots that can be bought at once will provide the employees with some time to prepare for the possibility of losing their jobs, and plan.
“While automation boosts economic growth, creates jobs, and improves living standards, it can also present serious challenges for workers and communities, including job displacement, disruptions to local economies, changing skill needs, and rising inequality” (Pollack, Fitzpayne, Mkay Automation and Changing Economy: A Case for Change). Truth resonates in those words, while industrialization will lead to economic growth it will be a challenging and dangerous time. Especially, depending on your social status, education and geographical placement, you will have different opportunities and be affected by the automation in different ways. The upcoming generation is already being affected by the increased difficulty to find jobs in places such as fast food restaurants because of automation. How would this evolution impact this generation’s career paths and wages?
With automation however, the minimum wage would be increased but so would the cost of life and the standard of living. The increase in minimum wage would be the result of the higher skill requirements for the new jobs introduced. Overall the economy would benefit from this change because it would increase consumer spending, help businesses expand. An increase in minimum wage also makes for motivated and dedicated workers, which means more efficient work and a better overall economy.
While the upper-class business owners would be the first to reap the benefits of the industrialization, everyone would gain from it in the long run. Because, even though jobs would be lost and communities’ entire economies would shrink, they would learn how to adapt to it and grow stronger. If a town whose income was dependent on the consumption and catering of truck drivers, they could start a new source of income by building maintenance stops for the self-driving trucks. The outcome for this industrial revolution seems to be a booming economy, with a staggering inequality.
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