August 25 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other Year: General Rating: 4 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
Although it may sound puzzling, there is a logical reason for the economy to maintain a respectable national GDP, even though unemployment is on the rise – businesses are becoming more profitable by installing robotic and other automation equipment which performs work that eliminates many jobs.
The first automation systems that replaced jobs in a big way arrived about 30 years ago, when gas stations began using new electronic pumps that enabled drivers to dispense their own gas. Employees were no longer needed to “fill her up” and wash the windows. Those jobs had just been “outsourced” to the customer.
More customer-outsourcing was soon to follow. People began using the Internet to access account information from their banks, credit card companies, department stores, and other businesses. Thousands of customer service jobs were now “outsourced” to the customer. Unemployment was on the rise.
Although there are a multitude of nice grocery stores in Las Vegas, I shop mostly at Smith’s and Albertsons. Why? Well sure, they have an adequate selection and decent prices, but the main reason I prefer these stores is self-checkout. After gathering my groceries, I head to one of the self-checkout machines, which are almost always empty, and scan and punch my way quickly out the door. Several cashiers have been eliminated.
The next big wave of automation promises to come from radio frequency identification tags. RFID tags will soon be used in most stores at point-of-sale checkout replacing all cashiers. Sensors detect purchases and automatically charge your ATM or credit card – or direct you to a cash machine. Customers save time and merchants expand their price competitiveness by eliminating more employees.
Wall-Mart, Target, The Home Depot, Kroger, Safeway, and most other stores are expected to jump on the RFID bandwagon in the next decade.
And more automation is coming. According to the Robotics Industry Association, robot purchases increased 27 percent during the first quarter of 2008. Robotics, experts say, provide a cost-effective way to keep “made in America” products at home rather than sending them to India and China.
Today, it’s mostly industrial robots, but by 2010, service robots that clean floors, mow lawns, guard homes, and assist people will begin taking over millions of more jobs.
We are entering into a robotic world, with automation slowly nibbling away at lower-skilled jobs before moving on to the main course. No job will be safe, and no age or class will be immune in the future. As higher profit demands continue, everyone, from janitors to executives is at risk.
But rather than panicking, maybe we should focus on solutions. Our government should create a national program to re-train employees who have lost their jobs to automation. Creative thinking and strong intelligence will become increasingly important in a future where machines perform so many of our jobs.
Futurists predict that by 2030, our nation will need to subsidize incomes. As automated systems and robots take more of our jobs, a basic income should be considered a human right – enjoyed by all. What do you think? Comments welcome.