Caution: Robot Invasion

Kristen Clay Period 1

A study in the United Kingdom found around 1/3 of British jobs might be taken over by robots in the next 15 years.[2] Furthermore, many speculate 38% of jobs in the United States will be taken over by robots.[2] These statistics bear a frightening question: if robots are a safer, more cost effective alternative to human workers then what will happen to the American work force?

Workers in the manufacturing industry are especially concerned with the threat of losing jobs to machines, but contrary to popular belief this takeover is predicted to aid American industries. The robot takeover isn’t the first instance where Americans have seen manufacturing jobs leave the American people, over 5.6 million jobs left the country from 2000-2010 alone- might I add that by the help of robots many of these jobs would be taken back to the US.[3] Although these numbers and percentages initially sound threatening, its important to take into account the common belief of “there is a fixed amount of work to be done in the economy, and therefore every new job must come at the expense of a job lost somewhere else,” is NOT true.[1] Also, it’s important to consider jobs will not be disappearing but changing for the better.

A key difference between a robot and human is a robot is exactly like every other of its kind; it has the exact same make up, skills, and capability- robots are made to have the specific skills necessary to preform their designated job. Humans however have varied skills, or human capital, “the sum total of skills embodied within an individual”[1]. It doesn’t take a vast amount of human capital to do what some consider a simple job such as working in a factory or at a fast food restaurant; therefore, these low wageworkers are easily replaceable. Because these people have a low human capital it begs to question what would happen to them if their jobs were taken over by robots? To put it simply people would be required to choose between maximizing their human capital and being unemployed. Sure, they wouldn’t get their jobs back from the robots if they were better educated or higher skilled, but they would be prepared for higher skilled and higher paying work. In the short term it would be difficult for those who don’t have the human capital to get another job, but in the long term it promotes further education and development of human capital.

The development of robots will not only help the economy, but it will affect society as a whole. Human capital doesn’t stop at how educated someone is, “it makes us better parents, more informed voters, more appreciative of art and culture, more able to enjoy the fruits of life”[1]. So in short robots will have the capability to help the American work force, rather than hurt it.

 

 

[1] Wheelan, Charles J., and Burton G. Malkiel. Naked economics: undressing the dismal science. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.

[2] Cnbc. “The robot invasion is coming, and its gunning for at least 30 percent of the jobs in US, UK.” CNBC. March 25, 2017. Accessed March 27, 2017. http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/25/robots-artificial-intelligence-boom-may-cost-us-uk-at-least-13-of-their-jobs-study.html.

[3] Rendall, Matthew. “Industrial robots will replace manufacturing jobs — and that’s a good thing.” TechCrunch. October 09, 2016. Accessed March 27, 2017. https://techcrunch.com/2016/10/09/industrial-robots-will-replace-manufacturing-jobs-and-thats-a-good-thing/.

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