Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Future?

 “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convulsions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” - Stephen Jay Gould 

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, one-third of the entire world food production is lost or wasted, and we could easily feed every malnourished person on the Earth if none of it was wasted – all the way up to 10 billion people.

Today, robots and automated systems are starting to complete complex tasks, such as self-driving cars that use sensors and cameras to gather data about their surroundings, and self-learning artificial intelligence such as Google’s AlphaGo, which recently defeated the world’s best player of the board game Go, which is widely considered to be the most complex board game in the world. In the manufacturing market, automation has been increasingly present for decades, such as in the assembly of cars and the mass production of commercial goods. The manufacturing industry in the U.S. has been growing, namely by 17.6 per cent from 2006 to 2013, yet per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, five million jobs have been lost in the sector since 2000. While today’s global automation in manufacturing accounts for an average ten per cent of all tasks, research from the Boston Consulting Group indicates it may well be 25 per cent by 2025.

According to a study from the University of California Berkeley, with the top 0.1 percentile owning 22 per cent of the nation’s wealth in 2012, compared to just seven per cent in 1978. In 2015, the top ten per cent income bracket earned 50.5 per cent of all income made that year, close to the most it’s ever been. 

In Canada, the top 20 per cent income group takes in 39.1 per cent of the income of the country, and although income is much more evenly distributed here than in the U.S, this top income group is the only income quintile to have increased its share of the pie in the last twenty years.

 McDonalds is replacing cashiers and workers with automated systems so customers can make orders by kiosk or on the phone and have their meal brought over to them. The math behind the change demonstrates why: an employee with a wage of $15 per hour costs the company $38,500 a year including social security and insurance, while a machine costs only $35,000, making back its worth in a year and being ready to use 24/7. The fast food service industry is not the only market where automation will continue to take people’s jobs.

While political figures such as Donald Trump claim that these manufacturing jobs are being lost to trade, a 2015 report from Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research found that 87 per cent of manufacturing job losses are due to automation while only 13 per cent are due to trade deals. These changes are not unique to the U.S.. A factory in Dongguan, China, which manufactures mobile phone parts, cut down their workforce from 650 employees to just sixty at the end of last year with the addition of new automated machines, elevating their production by 250 per cent within a few months time. To combat the rising cost of human labour for making shoes by hand in China due to their flourishing economy, Adidas is about to open a factory in Germany that is completely automated and 3D-prints shoes, which they hope will revolutionize the sportswear industry by shortening the supply chain and time needed between a new design and released product.

Robots are eventually all we will need to fulfill jobs, and they will do it for cheaper.


Anonymous said...

Apologies if this seems overly pedantic. But the quote at the beginning of this article is by Stephen Jay Gould.

ajohnstone said...

Never offended by corrections. Been amended now.