The rise of robots cannot be stopped

The rise of robots cannot be stopped

(TNS) – Workforce automation has been feared for a long time.

In 2017, a website popped up to answer a question on many’s minds: Will robots take over my job? Its creators have based it on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a 2013 Oxford University research paper on “Job Computability”. Things have gone fast since then. Even the term “computing” now seems hopelessly outdated.

If you enter the word “journalist” in the site’s search bar, for example, the site reveals an “automation risk score” of 9 percent. The nurse practitioner gets the same result (we’d argue that flatters the journalist). Accountant hours at 50 percent.

As language changed, attitudes changed as well; Automation is no longer seen as the formidable destruction reaper it was before.

Look no further than the fourth and second final installment of the Labor Market Reporting Project, “Not Working,” which highlights the mostly indisputable benefits of automation in many places around Maine.

Improving efficiency and safety in physically taxing or hazardous jobs (those in the “dirty, boring, dangerous, and difficult” category) is good for both the employer and employee. Automation gives companies more data and makes them smarter to the fluctuations of contemporary supply and demand. Nowhere is this more evident than in the manufacturing sector, which has been steadily automated for years and even so – like almost any other sector right now – it is struggling to fill the holes. Automation has distinct benefits at this moment, too.

Although immediate fears have been allayed by the gains and workers have not been replaced overnight by robots, key social and economic questions about the management of an increasingly automated labor market remain.

Part of that will come down to “future support” our workforce, which is evolving in a way that protects job availability and security. For Maine, that means coming up with a long-term strategy that sharpens the focus on the kind of education, training and retraining required for work that might get low scores on the “automation risk” search engine — not many of us are all that familiar yet. Anticipating rapidly changing needs will require unprecedented collaboration with employers.

Some might also focus on compensation: Andrew Yang, the presidential candidate turned traditional political upheaval, once suggested paying $1,000 “freedom dividend” to every American every month to stave off any cooling that artificial intelligence brings to the US economy. Even those who previously opposed the concept of a universal basic income might be invoked to the idea that such a payment could be financed by taxing profits from automation, so that it could be a wise and fair response to radical transformation.

There is also an ever-growing role for unions, which have been facing and negotiating technological changes in how work is done for decades. Well-paid or union jobs should be available to any displaced worker.

The AFL-CIO advocated a full-employment policy through government employment programs similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s (as well as more unions in general). “The public, the government, is investing tons of money in research and development,” Andy O’Brien, director of communications for the Maine AFL-CIO, said Sunday, “so it’s not farfetched to say that we should have a say in how this technology is implemented, because we’ve pushed its price.”

It is not at all unattainable. Any suggestion that there is no drastic change to prepare for creatively – or that the preparation should not have begun in earnest already – is.

© 2022 Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine). Distributed through Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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