Should we be afraid of the oncoming deluge of automation technologies that are being engineered in the world? These technologies are certainly having a massive impact already; what do they augur for the future of employment?
The White House released a report in December 2016 entitled: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automation, and the Economy. An excerpt of the report reads:
“Today, it may be challenging to predict exactly which jobs will be most immediately affected by AI-driven automation. Because AI is not a single technology, but rather a collection of technologies that are applied to specific tasks, the effects of AI will be felt unevenly through the economy.”
The report specifically highlights the implications of self-driving technologies. The report states that 3.1 million drivers of trucks and taxis could lose their jobs in the US thanks to autonomous vehicles.
Although engineers initially involved in helping Google, Tesla, and Apple create their self-driving car technology, they have begun plans to automate trucks as well.
And according to AllTrucking.com, there are 8.7 million truck drivers (also known as ‘truckers’) in the US alone.
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With the recent advent of Uber, the number of working drivers has increased as well. The White House report states that 1.7 million drivers could be out of a job due to automation.
Interestingly, Uber has made efforts to keep up with developments in the car industry, although it won’t save their drivers. They have announced that they are preparing their very own fleet of self-driving cars. The company recently moved their operations from California to Arizona; a state with a more lenient approach to testing self-driving vehicles.
Conservative news anchor Tucker Carlson (Fox News) has underlined the problems he sees with the self-driving technology that Uber intends to implement. He stated figures about driving employment, saying, in 29 out of 50 states, the single most common job is driving for a living. He added that it is also the single most common job for men with a high school diploma. He is deeply concerned that without the need for drivers many will be out of work.
Does Automation really kill jobs?
It depends who you ask. The big question on everyone’s minds is whether or not automation will create more jobs than it replaces.
Regarding vehicle autonomy, Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey alluded to the process taking a bit longer and that people should relax...for now:
“This technology isn’t going to be ready this year, next year, and likely the year after, there are many people that will never get into an autonomous vehicle. We think this is good technology…..it will help the disabled, the blind, the elderly; people that can’t drive. There are conveniences that are possible here, but they haven’t come to fruition yet.”
In the manufacturing industry, the National Association of Manufacturers stated last year, that in the United States the manufacturing industry employed 12 million Americans, representing 9% of the country’s workforce. The Guardian reports that these numbers are lower than they were in 1940.
However, the Association also found that in 2001, when industrial operations started seeing automated industrial robotics placed among human workers, employment in the country as a whole rose. Similarly, in the years 2010 to 2014, the number of industrial robotics the U.S. bought skyrocketed, and once again employment numbers went up.
Is this evidence that when automation predominates in one industry, other industries are created, thus raising general employment rates? Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama believes this. In June of last year a representative of a steel workers’ union alluded to jobs being replaced by automation. Obama responded:
“The good news is that there are entire new industries that are starting to pop up. What we have to do is to make sure that folks are trained for the jobs that are coming in now, because some of those jobs of the past are just not going to come back.”
It would seem that constantly equipping yourself with current and relevant training and education would set you apart in a world that is threatened by automation technologies. Even engineers themselves are in real danger of automation rendering their expertise useless.
Are you ahead of the pack?
The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
"Driverless Cars Are Coming, but Will They Kill Jobs?" Fox News. FOX News Network. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
"Truck Drivers in the USA." Truck Drivers in the USA | AllTrucking.com. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.
Vardi, Moshe Y. "Are Robots Going to Steal Your Job? Probably | Moshe Y Vardi." Opinion. Guardian News and Media, 07 Apr. 2016. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.