Scientific advancement is inevitable and has been for the most part of human history. Even during the Dark Ages, when anything contravening the official dogma was punished by public humiliation, imprisonment or death, scientists kept exploring the secrets of the world around us, pushing humanity closer to the present day.
The biggest revolutions in human history were all related to science – when our ancestors first learned how to start a fire, how to grow plants, how to domesticate animals, how to harness the power of steam, and electricity. Today, we are on the brink of a new revolution: automation.
Automatons are already being used for simple manufacturing processes, especially in the automotive industry – and with the continuing development of robots and AI, more and more processes in various industries will be taken over by robots in the coming years. The rise of the robotic workforce will create new jobs for skilled people – engineers, technicians, and such, and give more free time to those who were until then caught up in jobs requiring endless, repetitive tasks to be performed by hand.
This all sounds great in theory but when it comes to practice, things are not as peachy as they sound.
Masses of jobless people
When steam-powered machines took over in factories during the industrial revolution, the need for manual labor suddenly decreased. But the new machines created loads of new jobs – workers were needed to fuel them with coal, to clean them, to maintain them, and to haul the end product from one place to another.
The rise of the automotive industry has also created loads of new jobs – mechanics, technicians, salesmen, road builders, and such were in a great demand. The situation was similar in the case of computers and the internet – but the number of jobs created by these industries was minuscule compared to the number of jobs they destroyed – after all, a computer can work as much as several accountants and do so for just one wage (of the operator) and a one-time sum paid by the company.
With the rise of robotics in production, it will be much more profitable for companies to invest in a production line once (instead of paying dozens of workers each month) and continue working with a skeleton crew of technicians. This will lead to a meteoric rise in layoffs and may turn unemployment into one of the biggest problems of modern society.
None so far. Although the automation revolution is on our doorstep, there are no real solutions to the potential issues it may cause. Different sources speak of different solutions that may tackle the issues it will bring on but neither continuous education and research nor the proposed Universal Basic Income are anywhere close to becoming reality.
Let’s hope that a viable alternative to day jobs will be found before robots take over all jobs in the industrial world.