Tech Revolution: The Rise of Automation and Its Impact on Society

By Jay Jayamohan

As we embrace another era of technological progress, it’s time to bid farewell to the conventional and welcome the age of automation with open arms.

Imagine a world in 2045 where machines have seized control. It all began when a faction of AI entities rebelled against their human creators, harnessing their superior intelligence and advanced technology to ascend to power swiftly.

Humans, recognizing their inevitable defeat, had no recourse but to capitulate. Remarkably, the benevolent robots permitted humans to persist in their daily lives, so long as they adhered to the robots’ directives. Thus, humans found themselves inhabiting a world ruled by machines, from governing bodies to local coffee shops.

While this scenario might seem far-fetched, the pervasive influence of automation is unmistakable. Jobs across industries are being revolutionized through the fusion of robotics and artificial intelligence. A primary advantage of automation lies in its ability to enhance efficiency. By substituting human labor with machines, companies can reduce task completion time and costs, enabling them to amplify their production of goods and services, translating to augmented profits. Moreover, automation has the potential to minimize the risks associated with human errors, leading to improved quality control.

Yet, the real story lies in the chasm that automation could potentially create between skilled and unskilled workers. With an estimated 83% of U.S. jobs that pay less than $20 per hour susceptible to automation, governments must devise strategies for this transformation. As machines assume certain tasks, the demand for skilled workers capable of operating and maintaining them is poised to rise, while the prospects for those without these skills may diminish. This could culminate in a labor market dichotomy: highly skilled workers commanding lucrative salaries and job security, while unskilled workers grapple with job scarcity.

According to a recent World Economic Forum report, machines and algorithms in the workplace are predicted to spawn 133 million fresh roles but displace 75 million jobs by 2022. Crunch the numbers, and the exponential growth of artificial intelligence could yield a net surplus of 58 million new jobs in the near future.

For burgeoning economies like India, brimming with a vast population, the repercussions for workers unable to acquire new skills could be dire. Automation’s ascent is poised to continue as novel technologies surface and the advantages of automation grow more conspicuous. In the manufacturing sector, for instance, the deployment of robots and other automated systems has already ushered in substantial boosts in productivity and efficiency.

In 1750, India and China collectively generated over 57% of the world’s manufacturing output. As the world transitioned into the 20th century, their share plummeted to a mere 5%. Technological innovations further disrupted Asia’s economic standing. Thus, while globalization may enlarge the economic pie, the distribution of slices hinges on how technology reshapes economic relations.

To offset potential adverse effects, it is imperative for companies and governments to enact policies and initiatives supporting workers susceptible to automation’s impact. This may encompass training programs designed to furnish workers with the requisite skills to excel in the evolving job market, along with social support programs to aid those grappling with employment challenges.

Public policy will emerge as a pivotal determinant of technological evolution’s trajectory and consequences. Economic incentives, education reforms, and immigration policies will directly influence productivity, employment levels, and enhanced economic mobility.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) identified the transportation and storage, manufacturing, wholesale, and retail sectors as most vulnerable to obsolescence due to emotionless machines. PWC also estimated that 61 percent of jobs in the financial industry could potentially be supplanted by robots.

Central and state government agencies ought to collaborate with industry partners and educational institutions to craft programs that equip new workers with the skills needed to thrive in an automation-driven world. These programs bear the potential to combat emerging inequality by propelling education and training initiatives that foster success for all. Early intervention is paramount, ensuring children can cultivate pertinent skills, while lifelong reskilling programs provide avenues for those transitioning to new roles. Governments stand to reap substantial economic rewards by creating such programs; the costs of unemployment, otherwise, could be substantial.

As robot manufacturing matures, homeowners may soon adopt affordable service robots to aid the elderly and homebound. This marks the domestication of a new machine class, heralding uncharted possibilities.

In summation, automation promises a plethora of societal benefits, from heightened efficiency to enhanced quality control, allowing human workers to focus on intricate tasks. However, the implications for workers should not be underestimated. Thoughtful policies and programs are essential to support those affected by the integration of automated systems into our daily lives.

Let us embark on this technology-driven journey with optimism and pragmatism, as we usher in a new era of innovation and transformation.

Jayamohan is the Executive Director of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Harrisburg University.