Why so afraid?
Earlier today I watched a small newsreel about how China is now moving to automation, and that soon a lot of the factory work (not all) will be done by robots. Normally this is good news – rather neutral news – as this sort of low-skill, low-pay work ought to be automated, and yet I can detect a hint of fear in the reporter’s voice as they tell this story.
People sometimes fear change, it happens and is very normal and shan’t be feared. Yet automation in industrial work is not a bad thing at all as workers who start out in those fields will eventually want better paying jobs and working conditions; who wants to stand there on an assembly line for 12 hours and hammer away at metal, breathing in fumes, and endlessly hearing the echo of clanging metal and orders shouted from the foreman’s office? The reporter even noted that many of the workers who operated the factories tended to be older fellows, and that their children – no doubt excited by the opportunities spurred on by technology – wanted to avoid the work their parents did and instead seek out better paying jobs elsewhere.
Factory work, like farming, must automate in order to ensure that humans are free to pursue other more creative jobs per se; jobs where our natural curiosity and mechanical genius can shine, as an assembly line is where these skills go to die. Allow me to throw out an example, skilled trades. Labour work sure, but in order to build a house, the carpenter must know how to cut the wood at a specific angle, and must be able to attach the beams in such a way as to support weight and thus prevent a house from collapsing. What about metal fabricators? Sure the metal may be manufactured by machines, but it is men and women of the trade who shape it into something usable by the world in which they live in – raw metal is only as useful as a rock if it is not shaped and hammered into form.
“Now what about the workers, the robots took their jobs so what are they to do for a living?” Well, through government and private sector investment we can re-train a lot of the workers who are not ready for retirement to repair and maintain these machines. After all a robot that shuts down cannot repair itself, and regardless of what you saw in Sci-Fi films or the Terminator film series machines CANNOT self-repair/regenerate. Thus it falls to the newly minted corps of technicians per se to take care of and maintain these machines as they work 24/7 (the machines) to continue the industrial output of raw goods to the marketplace. Both private sector and government investment is needed, however, lest one fails to contribute the entire endeavor can fall apart, and the society will bear the brunt of the fallout.
Still, I feel automation is the wave of the future for manufacturing. Now as for what workers can do for work, it’s simple – seek retraining, seek opportunities, seek work in areas you think might be off limits to you but in reality are looking for workers because – as we all know from watching events – a lot of these positions are not attractive to young workers, so this is your chance to better yourselves. Never stop striving to be better than your previous self, to be better than you were yesterday, and to improve yourself until the day you are called to Valhalla to feast and brawl.