I have a Tech blog but this one is a little too theoretical for that one. Over the last couple of years I have been thinking about the state of Technology. I, myself work in virtualization and the area of creating automated tools for managing Desktops and Servers. As tech gets more and more advanced, more and more of my own job can be automated. I am embracing this. I am not overly concerned with becoming obsolete. I am focusing a lot on building a nest egg for that eventuality. I am also constantly keeping my skills up. Spending what spare time I do get, studying and skilling up in new technologies.
I have spoken with non-tech workers who seem to think they the job they do cannot be automated. I belief if anybody thinks this, they are far too secure in themselves. Look at how things have advanced in a relatively short period. Go into a grocery store. Right now most have sections of Self Checkout aisles….but they still have regular aisles. At least where I am, I have noticed only a few of the old skool aisles will be open and they are usually pulling people off the floor to go into them when it gets busy. The aisles are typically open to handle the demand during the holiday seasons. For all intents and purposes, that job is becoming rapidly automated. Some stores even have smart shopping trolleys for helping to navigate their stores and push advertising to you. It’s likely only a matter of time before robots are stocking the shelves too. And what about the deliveries? There’s already concept trucks that are automated….
In a CNN piece, Microsoft showed off their robot assistants used to give new directors and exec their own personal secretary. Aside from the Robot, the last couple of times I went to my dentist there was no receptionist. He used something called ZocDoc..you book online, you can see what time slots are available and you book yourself in. This company has now started advertising this much more heavily. Receptionists and Secretaries are going to be replaced very soon!
Over in the US, there’s a lot of hate thrown towards Fast Food workers. Ironically, I believe the only reason many of these employees have not been replaced my automation up to this point has not been due to the cost of investment, it’s down to the fact that Americans are so entitled when it comes to service. Stand in line at a Fast Food place, you’ll hear pretty much everyone ask for an alteration to what they order from the menu. No pickles, No Mustard…can I swap this for that etc. Stand in line for 10 minutes, you’ll see many people coming back up to ask for something else or something extra that they didn’t think to ask for while ordering. In a country of convenience, a lot of that convenience is being delivered by the amazing work force that work in the Service Industry…
They have started to trial automated machines to replace these workers. I think there will be some pain here for a few years while they refine the machines to factor in every possibility. Eventually these workers will also be replaced.
Surgeons have been getting replaced with Robots. Much like Pilots who are somewhat replaced with Auto-Pilot, these professions may now be more about being there in case of catastrophic failure rather than for operational reasons. Many companies are working on some pretty serious looking wearable health gadgets with rumors of wearables that can detect certain illnesses based on patterns.
When you go to the movies you can buy your tickets ahead of time and pick them up at a machine. You can buy concert tickets on Ticketmaster rather than at the Box Office. Cable companies are suffering due to many cutting their ‘chord’ thanks to the advent of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBOGo etc. That could impact many employees too.
How about taxi dispatchers? Replaced with Uber, Lyft etc.
This is without covering people like programmers, web developers, administrators etc. For admins, robots are already working in Data Centers to replace and maintain hardware. For WebDevs and Programmers…I think there’s less of an issue right now but it’s coming. Self learning technology will be getting more and more advanced. Unless your doing something which is truly unique and original and not just re-using existing stuff. You’re also under threat of becoming obsolete.
America is probably in one of the worst positions of a developed country to handle this. A third level education is not attainable for all. Training and Skilling up into an area that is not being automated is tough for many. People who lose these jobs may not be able to find suitable work. There’s also a cap on social welfare. At some point there will be massive unemployment without any proper support in place to deal with it, either.
Larry Page at Google has previously spoken of replacing the current 5 day working week with a 3 day working week. Where employees would work 10-12 hour shifts. This would allow employers to hire more people to help spread the jobs around. That won’t fix the education problem. It also likely won’t fix the massive wealth gap which could cripple the country. It’s likely not ideal when the richest people have so much money that they simply can’t ever spend it. That money is taken out of circulation. It’s just sitting there. In a regular country that would be much more noticeable in the NOW. In the US it’s not an issue because the US Dollar is the Universal currency for trading.
This means the US can actually print as many dollars as they want without it having too much impact on the valuation of the dollar BUT what if we move to a digital currency like Bitcoin? Or even what if China decides they are sick of dealing with the Dollar and decides to work with other nations who are also tired of the US imposing it’s will on the world and they create their own new paper currency and agree to trade with that? Pretty much over night the US economy could be in the shitter. There’s a huge deficit and a lot of growth which can be attributed to the US spending thanks to the fact we can basically borrow from ourselves.
I’m not an accountant, an economist or even a particularly bright person. I just worry way too much. A lot of this thinking for me has been driven by the fact there seems to be so much business here. So many of the me things e.g. 10 Grocery stores within a few miles of each other…it doesn’t seem sustainable to me. The rallying again raising the minimum wage and the memes of the automated machines in McDonalds with the caption of “You can’t even give me a burger with no pickles and you want $15. Meet your replacement” has made me think about a lot of this stuff. Anyways, that’s my ramblings