In the spirit of questions
The other day there was an article in the paper (for those of us who read online it would have to read: “there was an article somewhere in the digital world of bits and bytes”…) referring to some research that a couple of economists had done with respect to possible effects of IT, robots, computer technology on unemployment. The upshot was that in the USA within the next 20 years approximately 47 % of the jobs would be replaced by computer technologies of various kinds.
First couple of questions
Similar numbers are foreseen for Germany and probably the rest of Europe. Without going into this article as such, a couple of questions, however, pop up. For instance: If we assume and agree that Computer technologies are replacing a millions of jobs, why then do we push the various technologies further? What is the purpose of knowingly affecting approx. 70 million employees alone in the USA to an extent where they need to fear for their very existence?
I don’t presume to answer this set of questions, as the answer most likely is a systemic one. That is: nobody can be blamed or made accountable for the situation that is being created.
The question of how society is going to deal with “the new world”?
In this context, though, another question that pops up is the following: if we already know, assume and agree that many jobs – whether it is 47% or finally “only” 30% is really irrelevant – will be replaced by computer technology, what are we then prepared to do in order to ensure a decent existence for the millions of affected people? Obviously, we cannot just assume that these people will somehow either vanish or find other jobs. Also, we can’t all simply work for government or be creative, as somebody the other day stated succinctly. However true this may be for a small percentage of people it is unlikely for the bigger percentage of affected people.
It especially does not make much sense to knowingly reshape the future (in this case with computer technology) to one’s liking (be personal, organizational and/or governmental) and then assume a “laissez-faire” nature – i.e. that somehow the problem that we are causing today will somehow take care by itself tomorrow. Please don’t get me wrong. I am sure that it will be taken care of; simply not necessarily in a harmonious way. It is especially unlikely to be a harmonious process – which obviously is already in the making – if technology comes in bursts and spouts. In other words, the process of job-replacements too is unlikely to happen in a linear way.
The question of cost
Another question that pops up refers naturally to the costs. One part obviously refers to the cost to society regarding the growing numbers of unemployed. Society is going to have to carry a higher and higher cost in that respect. Here again, where do the revenues for that increasing cost come from? – Right, computer technology is expensive! And yes, it seems highly unlikely that that is going to change. Hence, are we to assume that the daily cost of living is simply going to increase exponentially of the next years?
And this brings me to the crux of the problem. High tech is highly expensive – whether in the high tech medical field or finance or where ever (We experience the direct effect by the ever increasing fees!). The issue though is very simple. We are beginning to use computer technology for a multitude of simple daily life issues, such as cooking, mowing the lawn (yes, robot. Much more fun to go to the gym during the time the robot is mowing the lawn), vacuuming, etc. etc. etc. Are we simply trying to make the most of high tech economies of scale?
Isn’t it true, though, that the benefit of high tech really is only needed for a fraction of daily life’s issues? – I mean, sure, it is wonderful to have a high tech computerized robot that does brain surgery in a way a human hand couldn’t. However, doesn’t that very high tech compel us to use it for every incident, whether necessary or not? And is the reason for that not simply one of finding an excuse in order to increase economies of scale? That is, are we using high tech because it needs to be amortised (and thereby makes life very expensive for everybody) or do we use high tech because it does actually lead to economies of scale in daily life?
The problem in this example is a very simple one. When you go to the doctor to be treated for a simple cold you pay an exorbitant high price just because high tech is there and needs to be amortised. Having said this, the main question then seems to be: How are we – as a society going to deal with this ever increasing technology that is basically forced on us – whether we want it, need it or like it or can even afford it? – I, for one, am able to use a fraction of this wonderful technology to simply post a blog. OM.