Automation – Good or Evil?
It seems to me that every innovation that comes along heralds in a new age of possibility and a new age of problems.
Just like the start of the industrial revolution, which spawned the Luddites of yore, these developments threaten existing jobs and ways of life. They are usually seen as a bad thing but gradually we adjust to them. The old ways never survive. Once the new age comes in the old is shunted out.
We saw this with the new machines of the industrial age that threw people out of work and ripped apart communities that had existed for centuries. No longer were masses of labour required to farm the land; machines could do the work more efficiently. The workers poured into the cities and ended up slaves to machines in the factories. Trains, trams, cars, diesel engine ships and planes replaced the horse and cart and old wooden clippers. The world changed.
We’ve recently seen it with IT which was meant to lessen our load.
We are now seeing it again with globalization and automation. We are seeing it with the death of the old industries of coal, steel, oil and dirty power production.
We no longer need a huge workforce. Robots are more efficient and productive. The profits are greater.
So is that a good thing or a bad thing?
To me that depends on how it is done.
If the workforce is simply dumped and the profits siphoned off into the pockets of a wealthy elite then it is terrible.
If the profits are used for the good of society it could be wonderful. The workforce could be retrained to do all those vital jobs that cannot be carried out by robots – nursing, medicine, teaching, social care, plumbing, electricians, IT technicians – everyone could have a three day week on the same pay which could give them a better quality of life.
To me we can either embrace the changes and demand that the wealth is used wisely for a better quality life or we can fight it and lose – and see the rich and wealthy walk off with the spoils while everyone else is thrown on the scrapheap.
What do you think?