Our Jobs are Threatened by Our Dependence on Technology
By Ryan Vince
Regardless of whether you support or oppose an increase in the federal minimum wage, human beings need jobs to survive. One factor that already does and will continue to affect the job marketplace is the fast-paced development of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. This rapid increase in robotic creation could threaten people’s jobs by eliminating the need to pay wages or a salary: welcome to the “fourth industrial revolution.”
According to several studies, robots could replace nearly half of all jobs that are currently performed by humans in the next ten to fifteen years. One report even suggested that, with today’s technology, it was feasible to replace 45% of jobs right now. While robots cannot wipe out every job performed by humans (yet), advances in automation are rapidly increasing that plausibility. Supposedly, people who occupy positions involving complex human interaction should feel strongly about his or her job security. These jobs include teachers, police officers, or employees in management roles. However, low-skilled and/or low-wage employees who engage in repeated tasks have the highest risk of replacement. Examples of these include cashiers, servers, or assembly line workers. Because a machine can easily replicate these skills, companies may pursue this alternative if there is a financial benefit in doing so.
Companies have already made technological advances in the way they serve customers and patrons. McDonald’s and Panera Bread Co., for example, both use self-service kiosks where customers can make food orders. While both companies continue to employ human cashiers, customers are given the opportunity to place an order without ever seeing a face. Additionally, Hilton Hotels added a robot named, “Connie,” to its workforce. Connie is a 2.5-foot tall robot that assists guests like that of a typical human concierge. Likewise, the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardees, Andy Puzder, has expressed interested in opening up an employee-free restaurant similar to that of the restaurant Eatsa. Mr. Pudzer criticizes the government’s demand for an increase in labor costs and says that he will hire fewer workers if necessary. Despite the CEO’s underlying reason for shifting to a robotic labor force, the shift is nonetheless inevitable.
Low-skilled positions are not the only ones threatened by the increase in technology. According the 46th World Economic Forum (WEF), about 70% of today’s children studying in lower schools will be working in jobs that do not yet exist. Common sense leads one to assume that these “nonexistent” future jobs consist of machine operators and machine technicians. The authors of the WEF study said, “Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology . . . are all building on and amplifying one another. This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen.” The extent to which employment is to be consumed by technology is definitively unknown. One thing we do know is that machines are already “on the job” in various industries. After reading about the student who 3-D printed his own braces, I would not disagree with the proposition that all jobs could be in jeopardy.
Humans’ collective infatuation with social and digital media plays right into the hands of “job-seeking” robots. People increasingly rely on social networking sites to keep up with friends, family, and colleagues. As these electronic relationships continue to build, so does the disinterest to engage in face-to-face interaction. Based on this logic, today’s consumers are becoming less interested in similar interactions. When continuous interaction with technology becomes a normality, it may also become a preference. The human race is losing its human-to-human interaction, and consequently, our dependence on technology could threaten the way humans making a living.