A recent business forecast for management decision making was all about robots. This interesting summary began with the sentence….”The number and variety of robots will soar.”….doing jobs that are currently done by employees. Robots do create jobs though. Jobs that require a higher level of education and training. The Jobs created have to do with programming, engineering: mechanical, electrical, and time and motion studies. Several other specialties are learned through ‘hands-on’ work experiences. One useful skill is the ability to develop an application program which enables a robot to do the same specific job over and over again with precision. Engineers who do ‘time and motion’ analysis and are able to develop these ‘apps’, are already in high demand (meaning an excellent wage in a middle class job). The flip side is that an individual who is ‘untrained and unskilled’ will not find such employment in the future.
For many years the Wall Street Journal has presented graphs which show production increases of certain goods and services. However, the same graph also showed a decline in employment levels. This is the result of the use of robotics for the production of goods. Imagine an auto assembly line. Years ago, every single task was done by a skilled employee, performing a specific job as the auto being assembled went by that particular work station. Today’s photo of a similar assembly line will show several specific tasks being done by robots. Recent reports of manufacturing factories, returning back from offshore sites, show that the new assembly lines in these factories are as fully robotic as possible. That is why ‘production increases’ while at the same time ‘employment levels’ decrease.
The fallout of this development is twofold: 1) Employment levels are being reduced by the use of robots, and 2) Many youth, especially those whose skills and education are not fully developed, will never be able to find a job. The current standard of trying to have an economy with only a 5% unemployment level will not be easily achieved. Today’s manufacturing factories already use 1.4 million industrial robots (i.e., each robot has replaced an employee). In addition, several million robotic devices are being designed for the home consumer. “Molly Maids’ will be replaced by robots in the home. Understand that this report is meant for readers who have discretionary money to invest. The future earnings of that invested money is said to be ‘vast’. The report projects a very favorable return on investment (ROI). Such a report is probably not read by educators, who are responsible for the training of youth for the future employment scene. So students today hardly ever discuss a future world wherein robots do many jobs now performed by individuals. Robots already exist in many fields: Agriculture (milking machines and harvesters), medicine, pharmacology, drones used for surveillance, military humanoids used as decoys in the battlefield, — even robotic automobiles on the freeways already exist.
The purpose of this article is to inform EO’s readers that the future will have many robots who perform work now done by humans. What is not being publically discussed by any major political party, be it Democratic, Republican or Independent, is the challenge facing this society– to provide people with the ability to continue to be consumers while not being employed. Today, those who have no jobs (the unemployed) receive unemployment allowances. Two million such unemployed persons were the subject of monies in the recent ‘Fiscal Cliff’ legislation which the U.S. Congress passed on New Year’s Day. It is very likely that congressional staff analysts, who are all trained to accept and use the current ‘employment paradigm’, have not made an analysis of a future society and its commerce which provides for the needs of a population, wherein many will never be able to ‘have a job’ because robots can produce the goods and services needed.
Our current democracy and its capitalistic system of doing commerce must be reconsidered. Large disadvantaged ethnic groups, especially Hispanics, must be the targets of education and training programs which provide an opportunity for personal training and development. In California, which already has a 47% Hispanic population which is beginning to vote for elected officials, special attention, and most importantly, the allocation of resources, especially adequate funding, must receive total public policy support. This group of skilled personnel will be necessary to maintain the robots as well as support those individuals who will never be employed. Robots do impact available American jobs.