TECHNO MODERATION

It’s true, technology is stealing our jobs!

Luis Almeida
Posted 7/3/17

In our society, we are conditioned to celebrate technological advancements almost blindly.

A large number of Americans have celebrated technologies that increase the efficiency and effectiveness …

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TECHNO MODERATION

It’s true, technology is stealing our jobs!

Posted

In our society, we are conditioned to celebrate technological advancements almost blindly.

A large number of Americans have celebrated technologies that increase the efficiency and effectiveness of agriculture; automobile production and maintenance; household goods; and medicine.

From the standpoint of “making things function quicker and more accurately,” technology has revolutionized and will keep revolutionizing the ways we live and do business in this country. How can anybody deny that we drive safer, more efficient and more comfortable cars today than back in the 1940s? Don't we enjoy the many technological advancements that we have seen in the field of medicine? Thank God for antibiotics! Having the ability to share photos with relatives through social media 24/7 is pretty sweet, isn't it?

But what if I told you that most (if not all) technological advancements have a life-changing flip side to them? When we take aspirin, we can bleed internally. Modern farm equipment has contributed to increases in environmental pollution, leading to more allergens. The automobile has created “traffic” and is a major contributor of accidents — America’s fourth-leading cause of death. The TV, smartphone and video games can be quite addictive, can’t they? And addictions can be lethal.

We are now celebrating automation and robots, or shall we say “robotics,” as if we should absolutely support everything they have to offer. We talk a lot about drones these days, don't we?

Look, I can see the immediate financial benefits of automation, especially in the fast food industry — replacing cashiers and some other workers with touch-screen kiosks, which will save any fast-food restaurant a large sum in operational costs.

Perhaps, fast-food restaurant owners will eventually use robots in order to help with hygiene, as investing in machines will require less employees, consequently leading to lower levels of food contaminants. It is likely that we are going to see a mass adoption of robots automating production of fast-food restaurants and warehouses in the near future, due to the reasons presented above. In fact, robotic automation is already happening, to a degree. What are the consequences, though?

I wish that we could look at automation and adoption of robotics in isolation from society. The problem is that we just cannot. If we decide to celebrate technology to a point of mass adopting warehouse automation systems, at the expense of its labor force for example, the side effects we are going to feel in our society may be too drastic and irreversible.

If you are what I like to call a “TechnoGroupie,” your foundations will be shaken simply because the side effects of such implementations are too much for any humane society to absorb. Let me elaborate.

Automating retail warehouses with robots, and automating fast-food ordering systems, could have a devastating impact on our local economy. Replacing fast-food restaurant employees with automated ordering kiosks might eventually cut food operations costs by 50 percent. The Wall Street Journal estimates that the use of robots will eventually cut fulfillment costs by 40 percent. How many of these retail jobs do we have in Cleveland? Technology is stealing our jobs.

What would that do to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s estimation of 700,000 new jobs by 2020 in the general retail sector? Isn't the uncontrolled adoption of technology a threat to our national security? I might be going a bit too far with my assumptions, but nobody can deny that the flip side of automation and robots is scary, maybe even irresponsible.

Blockbuster used to have 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees. Netflix destroyed them. Redbox introduced the kiosk movie rental concept using automated restocking machines. Redbox employs a fraction of the employees.

No wonder why receiving a pay increase is becoming a utopia for many these days. When the supply of jobs decreases, its demand increases, which leads to jobs paying less, and many times not readjusting pay at all. You can partly thank the flip side of technology for your family members’ and friends’ frozen wages. It is Economics 101.

Be careful with believing that technology is always good. Sometimes, technology has dire consequences. Maintaining local economic sustainability should be our goal, not blind adoption of technology.

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(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and TEDx speaker. He has been nationally featured for his work in leadership and technology by the Wall Street Journal, ABC-Jackson, TEDxPhoenixville, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Voice of America and the Indiana Gazette. Internationally, “Dr. A” has been featured in several outlets, including the prestigious O Globo newspaper and Radio CBN. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at luiscalmeida.info.)

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