Pushing back the machines will not last forever

While I’ve touched on automatics on a rare occasion regarding future of production, and how pretty much everything can be automated to some extent to deliver similar products for the end-users to enjoy, there’s a topic I’ve mostly gleamed over; present workers don’t really want automation. While automation is the future, and slowly we’re finding ourselves being replaced by machines in every field. Grocery shopping is one of my favourite examples, where automated cashiers have become more and more common. A row of machines is able to serve more customers than a similar amount of human cashiers. Even when we factor in how much time an individual spends in an automated cashier, sometimes bumbling around, the effectiveness is undeniable. Few workers just overlooking the customers doing the job someone else once had.

Nobody likes to lose their job, less so when it’s to a damned machine. People who are against automation taking over jobs and done work aren’t Luddites. It’s about pragmatism considering their own life and overall health of the local workforce, which then affects economy at large. Automate much too fast, and the local economy will suffer from falling buying power due to increased unemployment. While we can automate, the equation has to be balanced between available work power and absolute necessity. The rate of production automation is always higher compared to manual labour, but there are cases where that amount of production is not needed, or desirable. Currently, many production companies are suffering from low order volumes due to SARS-COV-19 going around the planet. Plants that have high amount of automation will stand empty for longer times than the ones employing manual labour. Not running your machines in itself is costly, but depending on the manufacturing it might be the cheaper alternative.

For corporations, and in the end for the costumers, automation is a no-brainer option. Automated production often ends up spewing out products out faster with no real variety in quality. The only pieces where you’ll find errors in automation is mostly due to in the natural variety in materials. Some plastics are superior to others, thus the same machine may end up producing lower quality plastic cups to another that’s using lower quality plastic. Harvesters have large amount of heavy steel parts to them, like their booms, and these already have large amount of variety in quality due to the parts their are assembled from. Automation can remove the difference of quality to some extent, but no part is ever the same size, realistically speaking. In order to gain perfect copies of the same product time after time, even through automation, would yield high costs to the point of no customer would be willing to buy any. I’m veering off the point here.

Understanding that people don’t want to lose their jobs doesn’t take much. Be it in whatever field, there is always a movement against automation that replaces humans. You’ll never get the human element out, you still need someone to look over what’s happening and fix when shit goes wrong (or stuff are lit to fire.) There has been multitudes of arguments ranging from impossibility of automating something to appealing for the sake of humanity. To some, automation is the devil that is killing creativity and crafts all the while destroying the value of those products, while to others it is the best and most effective way to reach the demand the customer is putting on them. It has become a necessity, something that has become a must due to modern societies wanting and needing consumable goods faster. There’s no politics in this really, just that people generally expect and want their products, be it food or whatever, at certain pace at a certain rate, which automation is a clear and readily available answer to. There’s also the whole demand the increased population is putting on the scale production, so automation helps in that too. The amount of work needed to do is just that much higher compared to few hundred years ago, and automation will have to advance in the future further.

What you may end up seeing is slowing down automation for the sake of the workers. This will of course means overall profits and the sales for the company will be limited by the amount of work the workforce is doing. It becomes a balancing issue, where the workers don’t want automation to replace them, but not many workers would like to increase their workload either without increase in pay. In a way, production has always been an issue with the corporation heads and the workforce. It’s a delicate balancing issue that automation has disrupted. It’d be easy to set yourself on the workers’ side and malign automation, but reality’s not that kind. Everyone wants to increase the amount of dough they make compared to the amount of work they do, which often means the worker often wants to do less work for higher salary, while the execs would like to increase rate of production with as little rise to the costs. These two ends are at odds with each other, but the customer demand just rocks the boat.

Cars replacing horses did create a whole new industry and new places to work in. Whether or not automation will do the same is slightly under scrutiny. Learning to code seems to be the future in many ways, though somebody has to still put all these robots together. Rather than these fields of work vanishing completely as automation slowly runs over, they’ll become yet another form of craftsmanship that is always in demand in niche amounts, but high in pay. The demand will always be there on some level. Skills like welding won’t be out of demand as long as it is used as a method of production, but at some point welding robots will overtake the human workers. We’ll end up with people who have to look for something else as their job, and the generation now training for the job will find themselves needing new skills down the line. The current workforce, however, would like to see that pushed back as much as they can, as that would ensure their own job for the foreseeable future. Humans have always been looking for ways to make their life easier and work smoother. Automation is a natural step in this, we’ll just have to find ways to adapt into these new paradigms. While I don’t believe we’ll ever achieve post-scarcity world, automation will cause issues in short-term, in the next few hundred years, until something truly revolutionary comes in play and shifts the paradigm again. As much as some want to fight the machine revolution, humanity’s innate talent in using tools and taking them as far we are able to can’t be denied.

Next time, less this kind of stuff and more about games.

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