Technology Overhaul

By: Meaghan Schnell

Technology-- most people in today’s society would argue that technology has changed their lives for the better and that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Technology makes our everyday lives easier and allows us to accomplish tasks more quickly and efficiently. Advances made in computing, medicine, transportation, energy and many other fields would not have been possible without the use of technological innovations. More technological advancements have been made in the last 100 years than in the entire history of mankind. We rely on technology for virtually everything, but just because we can use technology, does it necessarily mean we should?

“Out with the old, in with the new” is a common phrase when it comes to parting with clothes, jewelry, furniture and other material possessions. But this phrase is starting to apply to human beings as well. As the price of computers continues to decrease, and the overall artificial intelligence of these innovations continues to increase, many businesses are increasingly relying on computers rather than humans to perform business-related tasks. Technology has already significantly decreased the use for travel agents, interpreters, taxi drivers and other white collar jobs due to the availability of cheaper, more efficient and smarter machines (Jones). According to a 2013 Oxford study, almost half of those employed in the United States are at risk of being put out of work by automation within the next decade or two, with transportation logistics and administrative occupations being the most vulnerable (Jones). The World Economic Forum also predicts that approximately 7.1 million jobs will be lost by 2020 as a direct result of technological innovation. Machines are replacing humans and replicating what we once thought were uniquely human skills at a much faster rate than anticipated (Lulu). It is predicted that current technology could automate 45% of the jobs that people are paid to perform, and that about 60 percent of all occupations could see 30% or more of their constituent activities automated (Chui). More analysis indicates that 73% of the activities performed by workers in the food service industry have the potential for automation with sophisticated concepts like self-service ordering and even robotic food servers. Financial services and insurance are other sectors where automation could be greatly increased. Even though the world of finance relies on human professional expertise, 50% of the overall time spent by the workforce is devoted to collecting and processing data where the technical potential for automation is high (Chui). But just because an activity can be automated, doesn’t mean that it will be.

For now, computers do an excellent job with very well-defined activities, (like optimizing trucking routes, for example), but humans still need to determine the proper goals, interpret results, and provide commonsense checks for solutions. The most difficult activities to automate are those that involve managing or developing people, decision making, planning or creative work (Chui). Currently, computers do not have the ability to recognize the concepts in everyday communication between people or have the ability to feel and understand human emotion, making this the main reason why a technological overhaul of the job market hasn’t happened yet. We as humans crave social interaction and many of us enjoy chatting with our waitress or having a sales person help with clothing purchases. So although a machine may be able to complete a task more efficiently, doesn’t eliminate the desire or need for the “human touch”. Businesses might save a few dollars by cutting employees in the short term, but the risk of losing customers because of poor customer service could hurt them long term.

Job Replacement Quick Stats
Fact Number
Jobs Lost to technological inovation by 2020: 7.1 million
Percent of current jobs that can be automated: 45 percent
Percent of manufacturing activities that can be automated: 59 percent

Global Robots VS. U.S. Manufacturing Jobs (In Millions)
Year Robots Manufatcuring Jobs
2000 14.5 17.8
2003 15 15
2006 15.8 14
2009 16 11.5
2012 17 12
2015 19 12.3

Sources:

Chui, J. (2016, July). Where machines could replace humans--and where they can't (yet). Retrieved February 28, 2017, from http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/where-machines-could-replace-humans-and-where-they-cant-yet

Jones, M. (2016, February 17). Yes, the robots will steal our jobs. And that’s fine. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/02/17/yes-the-robots-will-steal-our-jobs-and-thats-fine/?utm_term=.a802fa6b1470

Chang, L. (2016, January 19). Robots expected to replace some five million jobs by 2020. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/robots-replace-5-million-jobs-2020/