As we all know – what with that big ol’ bugbear going around, you know, the one called Recession – unemployment is rife right now. And it’s not just here in the United Kingdom – the problem is a pandemic; it’s pretty much global. Currently, we are all just riding out the storm, waiting for things to get better eventually, the way they always have done before.
But who is to say that that’s how things will go? Why should we simply assume things will just get better of their own accord, purely because they’ve always done so in the past? To be bleakly honest, we don’t see it this way – just think of recent advancements in technology (robotics in particular) and you’ll see why.
Recent Technological Advancements Which Have Displaced Jobs
Think about the last time you popped into your local supermarket for a few bits and pieces. Whether it was Waitrose or Morrison’s, Asda or Sainsbury’s, chances are that they had a number of self-service checkout counters.
These are a fairly recent development, yet they have rapidly become ubiquitous. At our local (a branch of Morrison’s), there are no less than eight of these machines, meaning that they have potentially replaced the jobs of eight people.
As well as being much cheaper than your typical cashier (there are no monthly wages to pay, after all) they take up much less space – each “normal” checkout is at least twice the size of a self-service one, meaning they can pack more in to the same space. Why would they keep traditional cashiers on, when these are so much more effective?
And if you briefly consider the manufacturing industry, one of the first things that comes to mind is the production line, and how it has been consistently evolving and incorporating more and more robotics technology into the system. Why would you pay someone to spray paint a car when a machine can do it in less than half the time?
Possible Saving Graces
As you all know, touchscreen kiosks like those mentioned above (the ones found in supermarkets) are now found almost everywhere. However, something you would also know (as long as you’ve used one, that is) is that they are definitely not infallible. Quite often, the machine simply refuses to scan something, or scans incorrectly, or metallically belches out that most dreaded of phrases: UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA.
And when this happens, a little light starts flashing, and a staff member comes running over, short of breath, and fixes the problem for you. The problem that wouldn’t have existed, had you been served by a traditional cashier.
Also, until the day comes when we have created machines to create machines which create machines which are designed to create more machines, then there will always be jobs there, in the design and manufacture of said machines.
Capitalism doesn’t work unless people are earning money and then spending it – the future of a jobless robocracy is still a long ways off.
Guest post by Jamie King a technology blogger from the UK fascinated with touchscreen kiosks and robots!