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Automation, machines, robots: the end of jobs? Automation, machines, robots: the end of jobs?
by Joseph Gatt
2020-06-20 10:33:15
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Short answer: no.

Let's imagine this. Amazon automates everything. Books are automatically printed by specially designed 3D printers that can print thousands of books a second. A robot then picks up the books and places them on shelves that have sensors on them. You order a book, a sensor gets the signal and pushes the book down to a drone that flies right to your house and delivers you the book (or books, or electronic devices, or groceries, or whatever).

Sounds cool, right?

Let's assume that these drones, sensors and robots are doing work formerly done by 10,000 employees, each of which earns on average 30,000 dollars a year.

rob001_400That's 300,000,000 (300 million dollars) blown in smokes in terms of GDP. That's 300 million dollars that would have gone in the pockets of people who would have spent the money at local supermarkets, grocery stores, pubs, who would have mortgaged homes and leased cars, which would have saved for education or taken a vacation somewhere.

Now imagine we do the same thing with transportation. All taxis, buses, trains and tramways and subway systems use automation. Pay for the ticket automatically, taxi or bus drives around automatically, sensors detect whether people are in the right seat, and if a fight emerges between passengers, a sensor detecting hormonal levels alerts the local robot police, who throws a net on the people involved in the fight, where they are stuck until robots come pick them up and take them to the police station, where an AI system analyzes the CCTV and decides a punishment for those who were in the fight. If they get a month in the county jail, an automatic vehicle takes them to jail where CCTV and armed robots ensure security.

The problem with this system goes like this: if 100% of the revenue for Amazon goes straight into Jeff Bezos' pocket, there will be no one left to purchase anything from Amazon. If robots do all the blue collar, white collar and green collar work, there will be no one left to purchase industrial products, services and agricultural produce.

So what do we do?

One thing the government could do (let's say 30 years from now) is say: the government owns everything, and decides who gets what from what the robots produce. And we spend our days binging on Netflix or backpacking around the world.

The other thing could be that all these robot factories are owned by entrepreneurs, who are assisted by a handful of engineers (because even robots do the fixing, engineers only intervene in case of bugs) and the government taxes them at 60, 70 or 75%, and gives everyone a guaranteed revenue (like 30,000 dollars a year) that people can spend at will. Most of us will be on vacation all year long.

Or, more realistically, robots will destroy jobs, but also create new ones. One sector that really needs human labor is the information sector for example. Most people would rather read story written by a first-hand observer/journalist than a story cooked up by some AI system. So there will be more jobs in the information sector.

Another sector that will see jobs emerging and booming is the entertainment sector, anywhere from children's camping monitor to stand up comedians to film and animation creators, to sports coaches and so on.

Another sector that will see a job surge if there is a lot of automation: the government! If the government collects a lot of taxes, or overseas a world run by robots, the government will have to employ social workers, administrators, accountants, program coordinators and so on.

Other sector: the social work, welfare, non-profit sector. Other sector: the pet industry. Other sector: sales and marketing. If you have robots, you have to market and sell them! Other sector: research and development. If you have robots, you have to come up with new robots that are better versions than the older ones. Other sectors that hires a lot: education. If we don't keep educating, the next generation of kids won't know how to run those robots.

And new jobs will emerge: robot floor human supervisors, robot and cyber security staff, space tourism and exploration, space missions to fix satellites and the like, robot activity coordinators and so on.

And then, there will be a “bio” and “old-school” industry where people will be going like “we sell hand-made suits!” or “our dresses are not robot made, but hand-made” or “we assemble our laptops like in the good old days” or “we make soap like in the good old days” or “we use traditional medicine, we don't rely on robots to treat your back problems” and so on and so forth.

And then there's real estate, robot sales, the financial market, insurance, banking, and a ton of services that humans will keep inventing that no robots exist to perform (could be a restaurant specializing in some kind of dish, or someone who writes code lines for how robots behave, or someone who does the usual business matchmaking, or market analysis, or who fixes broken camera lens because no robot can do that, or people who tutor people on how to use robots and so on).

So indeed, I could order my book in Amazon and have it delivered by a drone half an hour after my order. Handy if I'm a student who procrastinated and need that book real fast to write my paper which I due in the next two hours.

Or, when I'm 64 and feel like browsing books at a book store, rather than browse them on a screen, and have a sales assistant recommend a book or simply chat about what book is trending in his/her world, I still have that option.

In sum, we do indeed live in a brave new world where some people like to have children through in vitro fertilization. But there's this other trend where quite a few women are into this “natural birth” movement where they give birth without using epidurals, like in medieval times.

Point is, some will want to get their tattoos done by a robot. Others will opt for some kind of famous tattoo artist. Some will like their shirts made 100% by a robot. Others will prefer “hand-knitted shirts.” Some will like their tomatoes planted and harvested by robots. Others will prefer getting them from a Colonel Sanders-type farmer. Maybe that Colonel Sanders-type farmer's tomato business will grow so big that he will end up resorting to robots.

Point is, the economy tends to self-regulate. If people aren't making money because robots are “stealing” their jobs, people will find ways to make money.

The only thing I would warn governments about is not to give in to Jeff Bezos or other tycoons' pressure to “kill competition” like the Koreans do by constantly changing the rules for small businesses until small businesses are driven out of business so Samsung can thrive a bit more.

If you allow people to set up business and let their business thrive, they will compete with robots. But if Jeff Bezos kills competition by partnering with the government and owning all the big media names, there will be no one left to buy Amazon products.

That is if Jeff Bezos (I like to use his name as an example) decides to wage war against competition, soon enough people will be forced into the black market (counterfeit or hoarded cigarettes, liquor, the love industry and so on) so they can shop on Amazon, and Amazon sales will dwindle to the point Amazon will no longer be able to afford to fix its own robots, and Amazon robots will become zombie robots. Then Jeff Bezos will leave the book industry and join the hoarded liquor, cigarette and love industry he once relied on to purchase his products. That's not the kind of world we want. 


Check out Yossi Gatt's blog https://yossigatt.blogspot.com/"

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