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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

In fifty years, will automation be good or bad for the world as a whole?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26798points) July 1st, 2011

Everywhere you look automation and push button convenience is popping up. When ever a robot or automated system comes online how many humans are being replaced? There are some jobs that seem safe today from automation. What if in the future there was an automated way to repair roads, make your burger, tailor your suit; over all would that be better or worse? Who would suffer most from automation or partial automation? The poor, the middle class, or the wealthy and how would they be disadvantaged by automation?

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13 Answers

Hibernate's avatar

Things suck in the long run for humans. We’ll be replaced by machined. [ jobs and such ]

The poor will still be poor and the middle class will sorta disappear.

It will be good in some circumstances but still a machine won’t be able to think thru some situations, they will just do and if things break they won’t be able to continue.

roundsquare's avatar

I bet they can already create a machine that would make a mean burger.

JLeslie's avatar

Overall I am ok with automation. Some of those you mention like tailor my suit, I can’t imagine how that can be done? Are you sayin there will be artificial intelligence along with this automation?

WasCy's avatar

As far as I can see, someone is still going to have to fold the laundry, make the beds, put away the dishes and empty the Roomba™. So maybe I should go back to school and get a degree as a chambermaid, because obviously even that job will require post-secondary education.

I’m not too worried, overall, and not just because I won’t be here. It’s not like all human occupations will be rendered obsolete. We still have sailors – and we don’t “need” to sail. We have fishermen who fish for sport – and release their catch. We have professional athletes of all caliber in sports that hadn’t even been invented 50 years ago – not even 10 years ago, in some cases. We have more food and wine critics than we even had restaurants when I was a boy, and they can’t keep up with the current demand.

And we will still have lawsuits. Oh, boy, the lawsuits we’ll have.

Finally, Subway™ will always have sandwich artists, I’m sure. Or someone will.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@JLeslie Are you sayin there will be artificial intelligence along with this automation? I am not sure how smart machines could be made. I am always amazed at what else they can get seeming ordinary machines to do. I don’t know in 50 years if they would not have machines with a great amount of thinking. How small can they make a processor? I can get a small device the size of a Pez dispenser that holds more info than a whole desktop when I was in high school. If one had instructions and programs ran off a complex algorithm who is to say a bank of micro SD chips that would not mimic conscious thought?

roundsquare's avatar

@WasCy There is already a robot that can fold laundry (sort of). It takes 1 hr and 40 min to fold 5 small towels, but oh well, its progress. So I think a lot of these tasks will end up being automated. Including, @JLeslie, fitting a suit. In fact, why not? You go into a body scanner, like the one they have at airports, and it gets your bodies full dimensions. Then, it can tailor the (or even make a new) suit.

I agree its not “automation” in the sense of “doing the exact same thing over and over again” but I think that definition of automation is a bit limited. Even soda machines don’t do the exact same thing each time since they give out different drinks.

chewhorse's avatar

Before automation thousands worked manually which was good over-all but limited to the job opportunities plus pay was pittance.. With automation, many hundreds lost their job but those who held on (say mechanics and testers) were paid much better and because of the progress more jobs opened up later to sort of balance what had been before.. This is an on-going event.. No company decides to automate unless they intend to prosper by expanding and expansion offers more job opportunities eventually.. Because of our over-population, it seems this isn’t working but in fact if we still worked at manual jobs we would not be paid as we are now and that would create lots more poor and struggling workers. So as they say, “six of one, half a dozen of the other”..

Ron_C's avatar

Since automation is a big part of what I do, it seems that the more automation, the higher employment in a factory. The difference is that there are more engineers, technicians, and maintenance people than laborers. I like it. It raises the workforce intelligence level and provided better, high quality products.

In today’s world, quality is more important than quantity so if you can provide a high quality product, even in short runs, your business will prosper.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Ron_C In today’s world, quality is more important than quantity so if you can provide a high quality product, even in short runs, your business will prosper. I see outsourcing as being a byproduct of it being the other way around. If an American company can sell a quality American made widget for $78 but Wal-Mart will sell a lesser quality widget that would do the same thing but cost $32 because it was made in Pakistan, Belize, Tajikistan, etc. they would by it. Most people I run across would not pay $60,000 for a new-breed hybrid even if owning over the long run would save them $2,100 a year on fuel cost if they can get a vehicle OK but not as good for $23,000.

mattbrowne's avatar

Good, of course. Ever built a pyramid without trucks hauling rocks and cranes lifting them? 4000 years ago 0.05% of all people lived like kings. Today, compared to them it’s more than 90%.

Thank you automation.

The future is in service and exploration.

Ron_C's avatar

@Hyprocrisy_Central There will always be a market for cheap, short lived products but there is a growing trend to expect things like simple household appliances to last for many years instead of a few months. I bought a toaster that I expect to last for at least 20 years, I bought a coffee pot (built in Germany) that I am sure will last until I die.

Factories are being repatriated from Mexico and the far east back to the U.S. because the manufacturers wanted quality, even if the profit is lower on individual items. Reputation is a better selling point than price.

As for Hybrids, why should I buy a car that uses a battery that will only last for about 5 years when I can buy a diesel that gets better mileage and will last for years. Ask a dealer about the battery life, no one knows the answer about what it will cost to replace of even how long it will last. So the choice is to buy a VW turbo-charged Jetta for about $20K or a Volt that costs $30K with $10 or $20 thousand subsidy? Why should we have windmill power when the windmills are turned off when demand is low instead of keeping them running to make hydrogen during off hours?

The U.S. should be an energy generating country instead of an importer. Of course that is an entirely different subject.

The point is that automation and improved quality is the trend for a growing industrial base and well paid work force. Sure you can still keep slave and child labor working in third world country making cheap products but that is a dying business model.

JLeslie's avatar

@Ron_C I hope you are right. I kind of saw America going the way of how @Hypocrisy_Central described,maybe the pendulum is swinging the other way and we will care about quality again. Certainly the struggles in our economy and with out dollar help labor in the US be a little cheaper in the world than it was I would guess. And, now we have added shame and societal expectations to help along trying to be greener. A lot of it is psychological in my opinion, not just practicality.

Still, we continue to have a large protion of our population who likes to shop, knows nothing about quality and likes to be able to get new new new.

laureth's avatar

I am going to go against the grain here.

In the current fossil fuel-based economy, it’s a no-brainer to have machines do the work of people. If you don’t have to worry about the cost of energy, it’s cheaper than labor, and quicker, too.

However, if energy prices were to skyrocket (as they will, when the supply dwindles and demand rises), the cost of building, maintaining, and fueling machines will outpace the price of labor. People might not be able to work 24/7 without breaks, but their food is a lot cheaper, and they’re certainly not in short supply!

I suspect that in 50 years, human labor will be both cheaper and more prevalent than machine labor. We’re used to the idea of progress always going onward and upward forever and ever, because that’s all we’ve known, especially in the last 300 years of industrialization. It won’t always be that way, and we’ll have to get by as we have for most of our history on this planet, soon enough.

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