Automation Technology: Benefits and Concerns

Robotic hand pressing a keyboard on a laptop 3D rendering

With the advent of more advanced technology, many workers are understandably concerned about automation and the impact it could have on their jobs. Computers systems grow more advanced each and every year, leading to improvements in artificial intelligence that have unskilled workers in certain industries where automation is king. Let’s explore some of these concerns, including why some of them have merit while others may be a long way off yet.

How Do We Define Automation Technology?

Automation in its most simple context is anytime technology is used to fulfill tasks that would normally be performed by humans. The idea is that as human input is minimized; workflows can be made more predictable, repeatable, and efficient, reducing the risk of user error and other unforeseen issues getting in the way. Computing systems have been using automation for a long time, but recent innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning have opened up the floodgates to a whole new realm of possibilities, leading many workers to question whether they will be replaced by technology in the near future.

Should Workers Be Worried?

The answer to this question is not as clear as you might think. Some people are worried when they really should not be, whereas others have much more cause for concern. About a quarter of today’s workforce feel that automation might come for their jobs within the next five years. Young people in particular are worried about the future of their jobs (about 37 percent), as they are generally more aware of how technology can influence businesses to work toward automation. There is a trend showcasing that the older a worker is, the less likely they feel they can be replaced by an automated system.

Age disparity and the income difference associated with it also play a part in this equation. 34 percent of workers that make less than $50,000 annually are fearful their job will be automated. From that point onward, the fear decreases exponentially as income increases. Since most jobs being replaced by automation are filled by unskilled workers, this trend is hardly surprising.

If you look at automation by industry, you will find that many human jobs have already been lost to it. In industries like automotive, business support and logistics, advertising and marketing, and retail, automation presents considerable risk to jobholders.

Truck drivers are the perfect example of those who might be concerned about these developments in automation technology. Self-driving trucks are not just a developing technology; they are already here. With the signing of legislation and a bit of further refinement, truck drivers could very well be at risk of losing their jobs. The biggest concern here is that these workers may not have other skill sets that could land them employment elsewhere—at least not with the same financial stability as with their current profession.

The long and short of it is that most workers know if their jobs are in any danger of being replaced by automation, and while they might not be ecstatic about switching careers, the truth of the matter is that automation takes away opportunities and replaces them with new ones.

Can Automation Technology Help Workers?

While many workers worry about their jobs due to automation, much more are using it to make their jobs easier and more manageable. People have specific skill sets that allow them to succeed in any given role, but it is a fact that much of managing a business involves small repetitive tasks. Technology can be used to make these tasks easier to accomplish, allowing employees to refocus their efforts and skillsets on larger tasks that would otherwise be mired underneath everyday operations. When skilled employees are allowed to flourish in this fashion and utilize their skills to the best of their abilities, productivity can soar. If automation is used to this end, businesses have much to gain from it.

Through automation, companies can save money, work smarter (not harder), and fully leverage their available resources. When businesses are operating as efficiently as possible, the quality of their products/services and demand for them can increase, leading to the creation of more jobs and opportunities for workers. Does this scenario sound likely to you? What are your thoughts on automation in the workplace? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments and check our blog regularly for technology-related content.

Are Increases in Automation Taking Jobs Away from Workers?

are increases in automation taking jobs away from workers

There is increasing speculation about whether automation is taking jobs away from workers, whether it is creating completely new fields, or at least expanding older fields. In reality, both sides of the argument likely offer at least some partial truths. While some workers may very well see their jobs eventually disappear directly because of automation, others will see new opportunities opening up.

Why Automation?

The push for automation generally stems from two loosely related forces. The first force is fairly traditional in nature. Businesses are always looking for ways to keep costs down in order to remain competitive. Repetitive tasks often are the first ones business owners analyze to determine if automation offers a more efficient solution. Over time, it is simply less expensive and more efficient to have machines, software programs, etc. perform repetitive tasks than to have a human perform the same job.

The second driving force behind the push for automation is artificial intelligence. The capabilities of artificial intelligence to go beyond repetitive tasks and actually make intelligent decisions based upon interaction with other machines as well as with humans, is quite phenomenal.

Change Never Stops

Whenever a new industry starts, there are going to be winners and those who lose — hopefully only temporarily. When automotive vehicles became mainstream, many people who made a living driving a horse and carriage, or who made deliveries with a team of oxen, found their services no longer needed. The truth is that change actually never stops. As industries change and new ones created, some individuals find themselves on the forefront, while others may struggle for a time.

Staying Aware and Competitive

Just as companies who want to stay in business must continually remain aware of emerging trends, so do employees. As trends come and go, it’s not uncommon for companies to periodically remake themselves almost from the ground up. Workers who want to be part of the workforce for a long time need to be savvy about their employment decisions, and be open to the possibility of training for a different career at some point in their lives. It doesn’t mean every truck driver will have to become a software developer. For the foreseeable future there will always be a need for trade employment such as plumbers, electricians, etc. It just means employees, employers, and society in general, needs to remain vigilant, flexible, and adaptable when inevitable changes actually do occur.  

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