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Automation and Unemployment


May 18, 2013
This video is kinda long at 15 minutes, but I think it's interesting nonetheless.


What do you think?

Will automation and robots replace so many jobs that unemployment will increase so that it leads to an economical disaster?

What do you think will happen?


Site Staff
Nov 24, 2009
Redmond, Washington
I didn't watch the video, but I often think about this issue. I am personally driven toward achieving as much automation as possible, and I hope for a future where people don't have to do monotonous or unpleasant tasks that can be automated (I'm looking at government bureaucracy as a first step). So of course the issue of unemployment has come up in this vision. It would certainly require a major upheaval of both the economic and social systems. With automation comes increased productivity, so there wouldn't be any less wealth to spread around, the issue would be how to spread it around. Cost of living would be insanely low, food could potentially be free or close to it. But there would be an awkward divide between those who are working and those who are just living. There would be little incentive to work, so there's a huge risk of stagnation. Maybe art and entertainment would grow enough to fill the void?
May 4, 2014
it could be but we're an adaptive species, so this'll force us to put our talents to something similar in that field of work, after all someone needs to make sure these puppies wouldn't malfunction, machines have helped us when it comes to mass producing foods for example but there are still people who work with and around the machines. why should this be any different?


Nov 12, 2010
See, I am iffy on this subject. On one hand, I want to say, "I don't foresee there being an economic disaster when robots replace humans," but on the other hand, I know for a fact that this vast unemployment will result in the lower and middle classes not having any income whatsoever. This will result in an even larger gap between those classes and the upper class. These machines will still be able to make the products, but only the upper class can afford them without some form of government assistance.

With that in mind, I do think that this will be a gradual process. I don't think that the carpet will just be grabbed from under our feet. The laying off of workers will be a gradual process, so it won't be an overnight crisis. People will be replaced in certain sections at a time. For instance, the baristas will be replaced at a different point in time than, say, the attorneys.

If this is the case, and people actually end up being out of work, I am not entirely sure how people will make transactions. Government-assisted programs seem kind of silly if everyone is on them. I suppose we could always consider abolishing currency entirely, but that would be an entire other beast for me to tackle. This aspect is honestly what scares me above all else.

I still think that some lines of work will still exist, namely those in the social sciences. I'm pretty confident that my career path in History will still be done primarily by humans, long after machines have taken over many of the jobs that have been listed in this video. I don't really see history being a topic that a machine can truly take over without human oversight. It would be difficult for a machine to understand context, credibility of some sources, and so forth.

In the same vein, I can't imagine a robot writing any particularly great works of literature. Writing music and writing literature are two entirely different beasts. Understanding connotation, literary devices, etc. would be particularly difficult for a robot to really grasp. Perhaps they could write a surface-deep piece, but I can't imagine them using extended metaphors, symbolism, etc. It just seems like something that machines wouldn't really be good at. I do, however, welcome our robotic news writers. Perhaps now we will see news being reported without there being an underlying motive. But that's too good to be true.


Jan 26, 2013
Honestly, I don't really see how this would be an issue. The way this seems to be is that right now we are mostly just replacing the untrained workers, the ones that got a highschool diploma or less. This is rather easy to do, since flipping burgers can be done by a rather simple machine (and it's far more sanitary than using humans, as they tend to not follow the rules).

What I feel this means, is that if you want to work, you need to become smarter. Now, I am of the belief that anyone can be smart if they work hard enough at it (some are just more talented than others, such as with music). The issue is providing the education, I believe that we need to use technology to improve our schools (not going into that one) so that we learn faster, and we need to start providing further schooling, perhaps an technical degree as part of high-school.

Part of the reason that I suggest this is because of history. It used to be that a lot of kids only went to school through eighth grade, then society changed to require smarter kids, so kids started going to school for longer.
Something that actually really gets to me is that people keep telling kids that they can get a job without a (college) degree, well I suppose that's true, you can, but it sure isn't easy or likely, assuming you don't want to work minimum wage.

As far as robots replacing humans with intellect, well quite frankly, humans program machines to do a job, they can also program them to "learn", but when it comes down to it, it is only as good as the person that wrote the code/designed the hardware. Humans can't really replace jobs in the human sector either, since they can't understand people by themselves, they can only understand people as far as they were programmed to understand them.
Basically, robots/computers can calculate, humans can think and that's something that without a massive breakthrough, computers will never be able to do.

I guess my point is that maybe we should embrace technology that does manual labor and take advantage of that to become a more intelligent society.

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