Advances in Automation: The Role of Technology in Slowing the Jobless Recovery ~ Technology Articles

Advances in Automation: The Role of Technology in Slowing the Jobless Recovery ~ Technology Articles
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Advances in Automation: The Role of Technology in Slowing the Jobless Recovery


The economy is faltering. The Federal Reserve continues to hold interest rates low - it's not helping. America may be digging herself out of this recessionary hole for years to come.

Ironically, technology helps to intensify the effect of an existing shortage of jobs, according to two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

How Automation Helps

Workers benefit from a lack of automation. Unfortunately, labor is expensive. Skilled labor is even more so.

From the perspective of a corporation, automation is a huge money-saver. Human beings get tired, call in sick, and want pay raises periodically.

Machines will work forever (theoretically), won't complain about never getting paid, and don't require time off (with the exception of maintenance).

Automation is the next step in the division of labor popularized by Henry Ford - yes, the great industrialist who perfected the assembly line. Rather than having a few specialized workers build an entire car, he trained unskilled workers to do a few simple tasks, and made the car come to the worker via an assembly line method of production.

The result? Ford's automobile, the Model T, first rolled off the factory floor with a price tag of $825. By 1912, a Model T could be had for just $575, and the price kept dropping. In a way, Ford had figured out how to automate the production of cars. Workers were only trained to do simple tasks over and over again. This intense focus on just one or two tasks greatly improved production efficiency.

That same concept can be applied with modern robotics. Automation promises to replace those factory workers with machines - further simplifying the manufacturing process and boosting productivity.

The Side-Effect of Automation

When machines take over, there's little need for the human counterpart. The result? No new jobs will be posted for tasks that can be automated. If technology advances at a faster pace than new jobs that can't be automated, then there would be a shortage of jobs in the marketplace.

An example of this might be the prevalence of ATMs. If a machine can dispense cash at will, fewer tellers are needed at banks. This may make the market for bank teller jobs shrink. Obviously this isn't a good thing in an economy that's already depressed. Maybe in some remote part of the country, perhaps some small Minnesota Internet providers could benefit from the increased bandwidth used by these machines - which actually points to a possible solution.

The Solution

There are some jobs that just can't be automated - yet. While automation kills many jobs, it opens new doors for opportunity. The market, and investors, must be willing to invest in companies where automation isn't a reality.

These would mostly be creative-based jobs like web design, managing ISPs, and other tech-related jobs. It would also involve other creative jobs from cake decorating to professional writing to teaching to various customized products and services.

In short, the answer to a slide in jobs is to raise the bar on employment. it's not good enough to stand on a factory floor doing mind-numbing work anymore. Education is the solution. For those that lack any marketable skills, the truth will be painful.

Rob Gallagher is a data researcher out of Minnesota who is obsessed with modern technology. In his spare time, he likes to share his insights on various blogs.