Automation is spreading widely. If it’s not controlled or accounted for, it will create income disparities and even produce economic inequality. Artificial intelligence is improving and so is algorithms for an automated system. These systems have the ability to replace workforce. Have you ever thought about how will automation affect the market in the coming 10 years?
The advancement in technology has never really posed the kind of threat automation has posed. Take the example of bank tellers. When ATMs appeared in the 1970s, human tellers were reduced. ATMs may not be a good of example of AI but it explains the upcoming change. Although productivity has improved and the lives of people have become convenient, automation has some risks.
Questions to Ask About Automation
Before accepting automation wholeheartedly, we need to ask a few questions. Let’s see what they are:
- Who is going to bear the burden of automation? Who are the ones that will be affected by automation? Regardless of how many jobs automation eliminates, the pain will always be uneven. The less educated workers will continue working on their routine jobs which are more susceptible to automation than the ones who have a college degree.
- How will it affect the supply of labor? Automation won’t just affect the labor demand, but also labor supply. Previous tech innovations such as washing machines and kitchen appliances reduced the time we spent on household chores. It actually contributed to the entry of women in employment. Who knows what kind of employment shift automation will bring. For example, fully autonomous cars could be used to chauffer kids to school and other activities. Parents will hence have extra time at hand.
As automation would boost productivity, it will reduce the prices of consumer goods. There is a possibility that the supply of labor reduces since people would have to work less to afford the same items. So, we don’t really know who is going to win from the outcome.
- How will it affect wages and vice versa? The pace of automation actually depends on prices. It is not just technological feasibility. Because an algorithm or a robot can perform a task just like a human being, it does not mean this human will be replaced by the machine. The cost of technology must also be kept in mind in relative to the cost of human labor. In the labor market, rising wages and worker shortage today might encourage automation. At the same time, automation has the tendency to replace workers in some sectors and push them into other sectors. This would depress wages, slow down productivity and aggravate inequality. It is again unclear which force will be stronger.
Why Must We Account For Automation?
The biggest threat of automation is that robots will take over human jobs. Although it is a bit overstated, but still there is fear to some extent. If automation will win with respect to speed, quality, and cost, how can humans excel? The answer is simple, by being human.
People actually like human to human interaction. Whenever we talk about customer service, we talk about people. We will remember a person who was kind to us or engaged with us in some way. Or it could be a person who solved our persistent problem. They could also be a friend over years of service.
Whenever you go to a post office, you would rather use the kiosk instead of waiting in line. After using the service, the screen reads “it has been a pleasure to serve you.” Why would anyone want to wait in long to get the same level of interaction from a human being?
The problem is human beings fail to engage with their customers. No wonder they think they are better off being served by a machine. The people who are serving users at the customer service end sound like monotone robots. They lack care and they are often incapable of resolving the issue at hand. A customer hence can’t help but wonder, wouldn’t it be better if an intelligent machine was serving me. At least, it wouldn’t waste my time.
If we humans start working on what we do best i.e. interact with users in an engaging and delightful way, no amount of automation will be able to beat that.
There are potential risks that automation will subjugate instead of serving humankind. Privacy of human beings might be invaded or they would become slaves to automated machines. The society will become more dependent on machines. But all this can be controlled if we regulate and account for automation.