Technological advancements are beneficial. Think of the washing machine. Washing clothes by hand used to take hours (of course dependent upon the number of items you are washing). With the advent of the washing machine, this task was reduced to putting the clothes and detergent into the machine and taking it the clothes out once the cycle was finished.
While beneficial, technology is accompanied by a number of negatives. With the advent of computers, intelligent machines, and robots, we’ve already seen a number of jobs being replaced by machines. Think of bank tellers, supermarket cashiers, and secretaries. Once upon a time, these were readily-available jobs but were soon replaced by machines.
The logic was simple. Machines are good at completing repetitive tasks. They can process chunks of large information, they won’t make mistakes, and they don’t require other benefits like health insurance, time off, and overtime pay.
Along the way, manufacturing in the US came to a slow down. Well-paying blue collar jobs disappeared. Human workers were replaced by robots, factories closed down, and some jobs were shifted overseas, where labor was much cheaper.
Then, there was the rise of the personal computer, the internet, the mobile phone, enabling consumers to complete specialized tasks. Instead of asking a travel agent to book a flight, you can do it over your computer or your phone. Digital photos replaced photo lab employers. Instead of going over to the mall to purchase something, you could simply order it online.
Technological advancements are only speeding up. Technology is also threatening the service-based industry. AirBnB can replace and also cut-in-half the amount you would normally pay for a hotel. Uber can be cheaper than a regular taxi. And platforms like UpWork and Fiverr are threatening computer-based desk jobs.
Even jobs that we once thought were safe are no longer safe. Intelligent robots will even replace skilled labor. Are you a truck driver? Autonomous trucks are already here. Autonomous trucks are more beneficial since they don’t make any mistakes, they don’t need any resting periods, and are less costly to maintain. But the rise of the autonomous truck will threaten an entire industry of workers, from truck drivers, to support staff, and service stations that depend on the truck drivers that stop over for a short break.
Are you a journalist? Even that job is no longer safe. There are intelligent bots who are capable of reading a story, stringing together a grammatically correct sentence, and summarizing today’s news. If you go over to Reddit, you will see bots summarizing a linked news article in the comment section.
So what’s the solution?
Analysts are already proposing the idea of having a universal basic income (UBI) in place. A UBI is pretty simple. If you cannot find employment, the government will provide a monthly stipend to cover your living expenses. The idea seems great and is even beneficial for certain groups of people. Artists and other creative individuals can now concentrate on honing their abilities and will no longer need to worry over how they will pay their next bill.
Displaced workers can also take some time off, learn a new skill, and rejoin the labor force.
Here’s the problem. A job is a source of pride. There are some serious self-esteem issues that go along with being unemployable and being unemployed. Plus you’ll also have some a lot of free time on your hand. What will you do during the day? How will that affect society? Will it lead to an increase in negatives – such as crime?
These are all questions that come along with a UBI. One thing is for sure. Most policy makers are interested in slowing down the advent of technology. There are some talks of taxing companies that rely on robots. Other options are to offer free training programs to displaced workers so that they can rejoin the workforce.
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