One of the main themes of the newly-elected president is that he will “Bring back good jobs!” in the Rust Belt, which has been dealt a crippling blow in the last twenty years thanks to free trade. Any serious businessperson or economist knows that this is simply impossible, even if the international agreements could be untangled to allow it.
The reason? Robotics. As a native of Michigan, I know that robots have been assembling cars for years, which used to be the go-to source for middle class jobs for low-skilled workers. But it isn’t just car assembly anymore; it’s in the grocery store with every new self-check out station that is installed. It’s in every restaurant that allows you to order and pay for your food via a table-top tablet.
The often-touted solution to this problem is education. If you can get these low-skilled workers the skills they need to get better jobs, like programming and coding, they can get the better jobs and everything will be great.
While I’m all for more education, and heaven knows after the most recent election I think we could use more of it across the board, this idea is simply delaying the inevitable. Sure, you can train a low-skilled worker in coding and turn them into a programmer or developer. But software is already self-editing. It can alter its own instructions and repair errors without any human intervention. Artificial Intelligence is being developed which will soon be able to create code from scratch.
What we need to do as a society is have a conversation about what we are going to do about the fact that automation and technology will soon render many people unemployable not because of faults of their own, but because there simply won’t be enough jobs left for everyone. One trained technician can service an entire factory of robots, thus rendering the dozens of people unemployed by the robot into a state of semi-permanent unemployment or underemployment.
Some have already started this conversation. As NPR reported, entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley have begun to discuss the need for a Guaranteed Basic Income for all Americans, which will support the economy when the jobs begin to disappear. This idea isn’t without controversy, but the conversation needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Trump promises to bring back manufacturing jobs, but robots won’t let him — TechCrunch
For Americans struggling with stagnant wages, under- or un-employment, one of Donald Trump’s most appealing campaign promises was to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Navigating the complexities of policy, tariffs and geopolitics would make that hard enough already for the president elect. But technology will make this promise nearly impossible to fulfill. Why? Because… Read More