Does automation eliminate jobs? The answer is both yes and no, which is to say that it’s a little more complicated than that. If we look at the global working population from the Industrial Revolution until today, the answer to that question is a resounding “NO, automation does not eliminate jobs.” Many more people are working today than were employed 200 years ago, even as technological innovations steadily eroded the jobs available to humans.
Perhaps a better question to ask is which jobs were eliminated by automation. You won’t find any buggy whip manufacturers in your town, unless it’s in a place like Colonial Williamsburg. Nobody is hand-making nails or binding books on a hand press.
The types of human jobs that are going to continue to be replaced by automation are the 4 D’s:
Robots don’t complain about working conditions. Their “bodies” are built to withstand factory conditions that would not be acceptable to a human. This can give robots a huge financial advantage. No health care. No sick leave. No workmen’s comp claims.
Humans are incredibly adept at doing complex tasks. The fact is, however, that humans do not complete those tasks in a repeatable fashion with near zero tolerance precision over an extended period of time with no rest. Robots can do very difficult tasks, like heavy multi-pass arc welding while making corrections and adjustments on the fly. They can sort, pick and place boxes that are coming from 6, 8, 10 different conveyor lines simply by reading a bar code. It’s more difficult to implement than it looks, but that’s why you pay an integrator. (Shameless plug)
Repetitive tasks can drive employees batty, but a robot never gets bored. It will perform the same task the same way all day and all night long, without making errors due to fatigue or other factors common to human labor. The old picture of an automotive assembly line with a bunch of people doing the same thing all day has been replaced by a sea of robots.
Toxic fumes, explosive conditions and other hazards can make human employment undesirable or impossible. Thankfully we can send robots in to do the work instead. Many industries have already incorporated robotic paint booths. Chemicals manufacturers are steadily adopting robots into their environments as well.
Robots will never replace humans. Humans are your most valuable and infinitely deployable asset. Robots will, however, take over more and more tasks. Your task is to figure out which ones. We can help you in that process.
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