Technological Unemployment, Education and Economy



In the world that we are living, employment is the most important necessity of man. According to Voltaire "Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need." Our livelihood is indeed essential for our socio-economical and psychological needs as the 'current form of society' does not function without monetary form of reward system. Yet, the employment gap is widening dangerously in this so called tickle down economic structure with technology playing havoc in automating even the most basic of the jobs.

Most of us have heard about Apple's Siri and IBM's Watson which are artificial intelligence computer systems capable of answering questions posed in natural language but many of us do not realize the accelerated rate of artificial intelligence advancement and that there are hundreds of such projects in development currently which would ultimately be put in commercial applications of automating even the menial of the jobs that are there. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest and the most profitable business in the world currently is to innovate more ways to automate work for all businesses and sadly, they themselves do not hire a lot of people to do so. It's estimated that by 2040 computing power will reach singularity and "long before that" it will almost entirely replace us - workforce wise. 

I understand that previous technological breakthroughs had eliminated workers while pushing many into other positions as other opportunities had opened up, but the coming phase of change is different as:
1. Technology in the past was just evolving and its impact on work automation was not as great in relation to the growing economy at that stage.
2. The impact of today's technology has a greater outreach in replacing workforce and is being employed in a deadlocked saturated world economy. 
Even the top economists are now finding hard evidence of these trends. In a recently published paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research (http://www.nber.org/papers/w18901), three Canadian economists argue that there has been a "great reversal in the demand for skill and cognitive tasks" which has started since 2000, a trend which is due to increase in pace and not decrease in the future.

The truth is that technological advancements are not just affecting the labor class but also the well educated middle class, impacting all sectors of business and all the departments within a business. If not already in your part of the world, then soon enough you are expected to see airport boarding/ticketing agents, shopping mall & fast food cashiers and such jobs being replaced with automated kiosks, warehouse workers being replaced by automated load lifting machines, automated pharmacies without a pharmacist, banking automation and ATM's replacing banker workers, accounting software replacing accountants, productivity software for findings legal proceedings by law firms, sales agents replaced by e-commerce, autopilot on trains and trams making drivers obsolete, callcenter agents, switchboard operators and secretaries to voice recognition technologies, smart algorithms trading stocks and so on. As bad it sounds, they also say that wars create jobs, but even that is mostly being taken care by machines and drones no-a-days. 

Effect on Education System
Machines and computers are advancing in capability so rapidly that they are increasingly invading the realm for the need of highly educated. The danger is that as this trend accelerates, a college degree will be converted from a ticket to a prosperous future to a waste of time, money and effort to acquire a job that had very likely vaporized by the time you got a degree. The result will lead to intense competition in the job and occupations that are left/hard to automise such as plumbers etc., which means accepting a much lower wage and standard of living.

Effect on Economy
Trickle-down economy means tax breaks or other economic benefits provided by government to businesses and the wealthy by assuming them as the real drivers of economic growth. This notion may be true as long as these successful entities are able to generate adequate employment opportunities to propagate the "tickle-down" effect in the whole economy as the workers spend their wages, driving demand and the net result is a growing economy. However, human labor on all areas is increasingly getting replaced by more efficient technology, robotics and artificial intelligence, eliminating the need for capital owners to hire the working class. 

So how does that affect the economy? Let’s take one of the biggest industries as an "example" which is the automotive industry. This industry has almost entirely been replaced by robots. It’s true that robots can help reduce production costs, are able to work 24 hours a day, do not need salary or special benefits, offer more output for repetitive work and work more efficiently and accurately - but the point is - 'if people do not have employment opportunities to make money then how are they going to buy the cars which these automotive companies plan on selling'. This figurative has a great repercussion on the entire economical structure.

I personally believe that technology is the greatest thing ever as it will eventually save us from human drudgery but I'm afraid things will have to get a lot worse before they can get better as we evolve past our 'foolish material ego' to eventually reconsider the way our entire society operates. We are so advanced as a civilization today that if it wasn't for the mismanagement of the worldly resources due to the money roadblock, science and technology could had already been provisioned to provide for every human necessity.

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Technological Unemployment | 60 minutes