Will jobs be replaced by robots?

Concern: I don’t see it at all. People have been raising this Luddite concern that technology is bad, that machines are going to replace people, for decades and decades, and it keeps not happening.

Answer: The economy will fill in economic gaps with new jobs and industries, the way it has in previous times with technological upheaval. But if you look at our history, in the first industrial revolution, we had mass riots that killed dozens of people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. This revolution will be 3-4X faster and more dramatic than that one. So even if you were to just take history as your guide, you would expect mass riots at some point, with a shift this big. [1] It’s already happening. That’s why Donald Trump was elected.

You don’t need to predict the future to see that jobs are being replaced. The male labor force participation rate has fallen from around 86% to below 70% now.

Male labor force participation rate peaked in the early 1950s at around 86 percent and has been steadily declining ever since, to around 70 percent

At least since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, critics have always worried that technological revolutions will wipe out whole industries overnight, causing a huge amount of human suffering and social dislocation. But that is now already happening. Disruptive economic change is unfolding at a pace that is leaving millions of people behind.

Rather than instituting UBI, many suggest investing in retraining this part of the workforce to learn a new trade or craft that would allow them to make a comparable living. Unfortunately, people are not infinitely adaptable or resilient, or eager to become software engineers. [2]

Do you really think millions of Wal-Mart cashiers, call center workers, and truckers — people who for whatever reason didn’t enjoy school to begin with — are going to latch on to and engage in enough schooling to move them into a sector that is safe from automation? You think the greeters at Walmart are going to learn to code? [5]

Job displacement is already tearing our country apart. Our life expectancy has declined for the last two years because of a surge in suicides and drug overdoses around the country. [4]

US job retraining statistics show that less than 15% of people who go through government job retraining end up getting jobs in the field they train for. That’s why it’s unrealistic to think that people will simply find new jobs at a fast enough rate when their old ones are automated away.

We are letting the lie of low unemployment hide the issues of decreasing labor force participation and the high rate of underemployment.

We need to take the step of implementing a UBI now, during a time of relative economic prosperity, before the automation revolution leaves more Americans behind. [3]

References:
[1] Andrew Yang Is More Than a Meme – Intelligencer, NY Mag
[2] Andrew Yang’s Presidential Bid Is So Very 21st Century – Wired
[3] Comments on Quartz
[4] Why Is This Man Running for President? – Freakonomics
[5] Andrew Yang is running for President in 2020 – Reddit

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *