Automation Effects

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President Obama recently stated at a campaign event in Kansas that, “If you're somebody who's job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country; You don't have a lot of leverage with your employer”. Although the idea that automation causes unemployment has become quite popular, the evidence for this is often anecdotal and supported by little facts. Automation makes companies more productive and competitive which allows them to create an increased number of jobs that are better paid and require higher levels of education. Automation is not a phenomenon limited only to recent years. Since the industrial revolution advances in technology have continually shaped the job market which at times has lead to the destruction of jobs in one field and the creation of high-skill jobs in another field. As in the past, automation technology will continue to advance, so workers will need to adjust their skills and improve their education to meet the changing employment demands.

High unemployment levels have convinced many people that the ability to automate jobs will make higher education a waste of money. Economist Martin Ford argues in his article, “Job Automation: Is a Future Unemployment Crisis Looming” that as the technology to automate jobs advances, the middle class will shrink as jobs in all sectors diminish, causing the economy to falter. Ford would seem to suggest that we should do something to stunt the growth of technology so that people can keep their old jobs that will become obsolete. Jean-Claude Paye, Secretary General of the Office for Economic Co-Operation and Development contradicts Ford stating, “There is no doubt, however, that the only way to achieve long-term success is to embrace change. Trying to slow the pace of change and artificially to protect uncompetitive activities would only make delayed adjustment more painful”(3). Paye is correct that the only way for countries to be prosperous is to continue to innovate and stay ahead technologically of what the rest of the world is doing. It is inevitable that in the future economies will be fueled by automation and it is necessary to use this fact to gain an advantage.

The history of technological advances also do not agree with Ford's analysis. Great leaps in technology always creates a boom in the economy, there is often a mismatch in the skills of the workforce with the jobs that need to be filled, but that soon evens out. Such leaps is technology is not a recent occurrence, that in fact goes all the way back to the steam engine which was one of the biggest advances in automation. The steam engine, a great leap in our history towards automation brought about drastic economic change. Shortly after it was invented, the steam engine became an integral part of factory production that raised efficiency and employment(Whipps). A more recent economic boom spurred on by technological advance occurred with the invention of the semiconductor. This invention has played an important role in our ability to automate through robotics and computers. The Semiconductor Industry Association expects the semiconductor industry to contribute $300 billion.

Many Americans do not want to work long difficult jobs for low pay. So it is not surprising that a large number of companies have outsourced jobs overseas where labor is cheap and abundant. There was evidence of our wish to only work in high end jobs, when in Georgia after laws against hiring illegals was passed replacements for the workers “proved scarce” and thus Georgia lost $300 million in agricultural profit(Asbed 1). This problem could have been remedied by automated harvesters that could create more high level jobs for the nation. If Americans want to earn more money for the work they do than the rest of the worlds population then we are going to have to set ourselves apart in way such as automation. Automating production makes companies more efficient and more productive. This allows domestic...
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