Okay, I’m going to try to talk about a political topic without getting political. I’m talking about jobs in the U.S. I’ve not been shy on sharing my opinions on things like this, but that’s not what this post is about. We’re not here to talk about immigrants “stealing” jobs or jobs being shipped overseas because I believe that much of that will be irrelevant in the near future.
I’ve talked about this before, but this issue is only going to become more important over the next few years. In fact, I think it might be the most important issue humanity has ever faced. (Aside from the weird report that sperm counts for western men have halved in the last 40 years, but that’s a topic for another day.) I know a few people who’ve said I’m a bit of a doomsayer when it comes to this topic, but sometimes the doomsayer is right.
Reuters recently put out an article with the headline U.S. investors see more automation, not jobs, under Trump administration. And while Trump is in the headline of the article, it wouldn’t matter if the President was Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Mitt Romney or the frickin’ Easter Bunny. The point is, that stocks, and the people who invest in them, are performing a little bit of foretelling for us. They’re investing, quite heavily, in companies that make automation systems.
And, of course, what does automation mean? While yes, it means companies keeping their manufacturing facilities in the U.S., but it also means fewer jobs. Does it matter if a manufacturing plant is located in Kentucky as opposed to New Delhi if it doesn’t provide any jobs?
Some people will dismiss this and look back at the industrial revolution as a reference. We moved on past that, more jobs doing other things were created. The thing is, the jobs that are being automated are not just manufacturing. Food service, food manufacturing, transportation and a shit-ton more. (How many automated telemarketing callerbots have received this week?) I think you’d be hard pressed to find an employment field that is NOT facing automation in the next two decades.
Even in just manufacturing, shipping jobs overseas was always a stopgap until automation took over. And, from an economic point of view, there’s no stopping it. To be honest, I have to ask the question, should we even try? Maybe we should try something a little different. Maybe we should take a step back and really take a look at what we want for humanity. Maybe we should reconsider what it means to have a human society when machines and computers do 99% of the work?