Technology can create more jobs than it destroys

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    18th Apr, 2019
  • The advancement of robotics and artificial intelligence will make 75 million jobs obsolete by the year 2022, according to a report by World Economic Forum. The same report goes on to predict the creation of 133 million new jobs over the same period.
  • There’s a lot of uncertainty right now about the future of work, and how emerging technologies will change the nature and availability of jobs in the coming years. It’s tempting and wholly reasonable to believe, as so many do, that technological advances, particularly in the areas of robotics and AI, will result in massive unemployment.
  • At the same, technological progress could also create new opportunities and completely new forms of employment.

Issue

Context:

  • The advancement of robotics and artificial intelligence will make 75 million jobs obsolete by the year 2022, according to a report by World Economic Forum. The same report goes on to predict the creation of 133 million new jobs over the same period.
  • There’s a lot of uncertainty right now about the future of work, and how emerging technologies will change the nature and availability of jobs in the coming years. It’s tempting and wholly reasonable to believe, as so many do, that technological advances, particularly in the areas of robotics and AI, will result in massive unemployment.
  • At the same, technological progress could also create new opportunities and completely new forms of employment.

Background:

  • This is similar to our apprehensions in the past about computers taking over workers upon mass adoption.
  • Further backwards it traces its relevance in Industrial Revolution which brought transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and US starting from 1760 to 1820.
  • Today, we see computers and laptops as indispensable goods in every domain. In fact, they have performed miracles — from assisting in controlling missiles to tracing water beneath dry soil.

Analysis

What is the role technology playing in our everyday life?

  • One of the primary uses of the technologies is doing things we do not want to: Dangerous jobs, boring jobs, physically demanding jobs and jobs where high levels of repetitive accuracy are needed.
  • Much of it has been going on for years as factories will always seek the cheapest workforce, be that human or machine.Increased automation is likely to lead to the capacity for more production while employing fewer people hence giving more profits to the entrepreneur.
  • Many of us already have the privilege of the use of similar technologies to do some of these tasks already. We are certainly grateful for the washing machine, mixer grinderin our houses, automobiles-all made up of some technologytomost recent AI doing an excellent job of flying aeroplanes.
  • The Google Assistant can now fairly remind our schedules, browse nearest coffee shops and plan for our health check-up on a single command.
  • The Aristotle, a programmable device of Mattel, can read bedtime stories to the kids and teach foreign words to the toddlers.
  • The Steve, a security robot, can walk around a place and detect potential fires.
  • The nanny-robots can monitor a chicken’s health.
  • The list keeps growing by the day. By 2025, robotics is predicted to be a $67 billion sector.

People’s perception about impact of technology on employment

  • The ‘robots will take our job and everything is ruined’ mentality seems pervasive. The headlines are pitched to grab our attention while pulling at your fears.
  • Machines do displace workers. They have always done that. From the cotton gin, machine tools, and punch cards to combine harvesters, industrial robots, and business software. And it is this “displacement effect” that leads to scary forecasts about AI and robots leading to mass technological unemployment and underemployment.
  • However, increasing anxiety over job security is understandable as we are seeing artificial intelligence, robots and automation, taking over in areas we previously thought were safe.

How technology has been creating new jobs rather than destroying it?

  • Individuals, communities and businesses who had been disrupted and displaced sought out have created new opportunities, some of which were on the back of the very technologies that had brought about this enormous change in their lives.
  • The introduction of ATMs was followed by more jobs for tellers because it reduced the costs of banking, and banks opened more branches.
  • The productivity effect could be broader: Agricultural mechanization lowered food prices and created more demand for non-agricultural goods and the workers producing them. Hence it gave more employment and wages to them.
  • As tasks in textiles, metals, agriculture and other industries were being automated in the 19th and 20th centuries, a new range of tasks in factory work, engineering, repair, back-office, management and finance generated demand for displaced workers.
  • The machines in factories and industries have created enormous employment for the job of operator. People trained in handling machines are getting opportunities to work and earn.

How will these coming up technologies create jobs in future?

  • Similarly, these new upcoming technologies- Artificial intelligence, robotisation and automation would open avenues for new jobs rather than generating job losses.
  • Over time, the opportunities for work as we know it today, for purely human workers in any given role, will decrease. But the set of opportunities for work as we will come to know it tomorrow – through human collaboration with AIRA technologies will increase.
  • Moving towards these technologies would open avenues for new jobs, especially in information and communication technologies and data sciences.
  • It will create technical jobs like-Data Scientist, Data Miner, Software analysts, Algorithm specialists, Application Developer, Web Developer,Machine learning engineer.To harness potential, we require building institutional capabilities that train the young workforce for these sectors.
  • There exists huge demand for skill building, not just in these emerging technologies but in the existing industries as well. Today, even in manufacturing, just 10 per cent have received some form of training. There exists a huge scope for skilled employment.
  • Many of us are using today the personal computers in our houses and officesand super computers in research labs:
    • They help us in almost all of our work ranging widely from- playing video games to booking a train ticket to attending video conferences.
    • There use is not limited but getting expanded day by day with their usage in more specific scientific projects- mapping of earth, prediction of weather, imaging a black hole using mathematical model.

One of our largest jobs in future will be exploring new ways to deploy these AIRA technologies as tools for our benefit.

Way Forward:

  • This situation of technologies taking our current jobs shouldnot alarm us. We have been in analogous situations before also. Throughout history, we have constantly been in a period of technological development; it’s just the speed of that technological development that changes. There are slow periods and fast periods, but technological development and innovation are always happening, they never stop.
  • The degree of difficulty of our 21st century transition will depend on how quickly and appropriately we can educate and train our workforce, though the economists concede there is little concrete information about what types of skills new technologies will complement, underscoring the importance of further empirical work in this area.
  • Cities have always been durable hubs of economic progress and job creation because of the concentrated networks of specialized talent they create. Now for knowledge workers working with these new jobs, technology has weakened this geographical stranglehold.With the right infrastructure, a digital marketer, visual designer, or Android developer can be as prolific working from a hinterland as they are in the offices of a technology company in a metropolitan city.
  • While it is true that these technologies encompass some of the most powerful and fastest developing technology we have ever seen, we must keep in mind – timescale of adoption, speed of development, and the extent they are used and impacts they can have.
  • When sufficient institutional capabilities are built to train the workforce for future jobs and impart skills to the existing force, the threat to job loss will be a lesser menace.

Learning Aid

    Practice Question:

    The new technologies of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation are seen as a threat to the employment opportunities by replacing man with machine. Discuss with historical context how these new technologies can be used to create more jobs instead of destroying it.

    © 2020 Basix Education Pvt. Ltd. All Rights Reserved