Earlier today my wife and I were discussing “The Great Resignation”, “The Great Refactoring”, “The Great Rest”, whatever you want to call it, and ended up on the topic of automation. Our biggest question was: What is going to happen if a lot of these positions end up being automated before many millions of people decide to go back to work?
With the current supply shortage caused by the pandemic and The Great Resignation, it seems that many companies are rethinking their supply chain strategies. Companies that have spent decades moving their factories overseas where labor is much less expensive are now having to rethink that strategy as their products are not available because of supply and worker shortages. With this in mind, there have even been rumors of some large tech companies re-establishing their manufacturing footprint here in the United States. This may sound great, but the reality is that it is not that great for employment potential.
While we have spent many years worrying about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the human psyche, many have not noticed that computers have already taken over, many years ago. Computers have quietly slipped into every facet of human life and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Even tribes deep in the Amazon jungle, while mostly not familiar with technology, are still tracked using the same technology. Be it satellite flyovers, drones, LIDAR, or any other technology, in the end, all of the data flows into a computer somewhere for real-time analysis or is held for later analysis. No one can escape it.
Many people set up computers to tell them when to wake up, when to go to bed, when to eat, when to exercise, when to work, and even when to try to relax. Even if your smart device is not set up for these operations most companies use computer algorithms to figure out the best schedule for employees to work. Companies like Amazon use them to decide what you should buy based on what you bought. Or, if you have all microphones turned on, what you last talked about. Banks solely use computers to decide if you are worthy of a loan, think credit score. Employers will use computers to check your background to see if they think you are fit to work for them, some of them even going as far as wanting a copy of your computer-generated credit report to make sure you are “worthy” to work for them.
Now we have a brand new generation of tech warriors that wants to turn our economy and anything else of value into a blockchain. We have virtual reality systems that are approaching a point where it could be easy to get lost in that world and not come back to this world. There are movies about this bad situation, and this is directly where we are headed.
Computers control most things these days, at least in the United States, but it is much the same in most of the developed world. The AI might not be telling you what you can do, but a computer is controlling what you will do. Like it or not, this is the truth. And, more often than not, no matter how skewed the data is, the people, your employer, your managers, your bank, your grocery store, your pharmacy, all believe what the computer tells them because they have been trained that the machine is always right. Listen to the computer we are told, it never lies we are told.
We have come to a point with computers where one computer is replacing the jobs of 5–10 employees or more. Of course, this is very situation-dependent but it is very prolific in the finance, healthcare, and insurance industries. The things we depend on every day.
Take this knowledge and pair it with the knowledge of the hundreds if not thousands of ransomware attacks that are attempted every day and we have a major problem. Will the computer still always be right when the wrong person gets ahold of it? It is inevitable, it has happened and will continue to happen.
So in the end the computers have already won, some on their own through corporate greed and “optimizations” others through a system hack that opens your personal information to the world. This has happened thousands of times in the last few decades, only a slight few are reported, though that tide is changing. But still, the point is the same, if you stop and think about it, computers control more than most people think they do and are seen as perfect by some, but are far from it.
What does this have to do with The Great Resignation and employment potential? Well, the work that may move back into this country is going to be mostly automated. There will be a few employees to keep things running, but otherwise, almost anything that can be done by humans in factories can be done with AI and robots. There are a few things that robots do not have the finesse to pull off so there will be humans in those coveted positions, but for the most part, things will be automated. All of this automation will undoubtedly grow as time moves forward and the technology is improved. Each minute that ticks by the computers get a little smarter and the machines get a little faster.
But, there is a deeper rabbit hole here and that is the growth of the world population vs. the shrinking of the job market as more things are automated and handed over to the computers. This is not some 1984ish dystopian nightmare, this is the truth of the future that we are living in.
There is no doubt that the world population will continue to grow. There is no doubt that the push for more computers and robots to do the work that humans once did will continue moving forward at a blazing rate. But, what is going to happen to us as a whole? The logic on this works out to say that there will be a point when there are many more people than there are jobs available.
Cheap, noncomplaining, no vacation, no sick days, no holiday, no life, no soul having machines have already replaced thousands of humans in the workforce. This will continue with no end in sight as more and more companies chase the bottom line and replace employees with automation.
Where I do believe that the “computers control everything” revolution has good intentions I do not think the end result is going to be as peachy as some would hope.
This is why I believe that the computers have already won and we are just along for the ride.