In recent months in Australia, it has become quite clear that many jobs are becoming obsolete due to technological unemployment. That is, unemployment caused by technological advances and the onset of automation.
Death of the Driver
One example is within the mining industry. Many mining sites now have fully automated trucks that drive themselves along a set route hauling iron ore as required. A once high paying truck driver job has become almost unnecessary as technology improves. I once worked for the Queensland Police Service (between 2007 and 2008) and I recall a number of police officers leaving their $50000 salaries to become truck drivers earning $100000+. Their logic was simple – why do something relatively dangerous and stressful like policing when instead they could be sitting in an air-conditioned cab getting more than twice the salary?
It is predicted that by about 2035, there will be no more driving jobs – taxi drivers, truck drivers, couriers – they’ll all be gone. Uber has already been quite honest about it saying they plan to introduce an automated fleet as soon as it’s economically viable. Many observers highlight the negative impact of automation, that is, the large number of job losses. However, I’d like to talk about the many advantages.
Benefits of Automation
First, automated vehicles will be far safer than their human-driven counterparts. People get tired, distracted, look at their mobile phone, drink-drive, drug-drive, deal with the kids in the back seat, etc. We’re not designed to focus on one task for hours on end. Already the driverless cars being tested on the roads in North America have incredible safety records, so we can only assume that their safety will improve in the upcoming years. I foresee a society where ultimately it will become illegal to physically drive a vehicle due to the inherent danger involved. Once governments see the statistics and realise that humans are causing most of the road fatalities, they’ll be forced to act by a tech-savvy population.
Second, the cost of goods and services will come down. If there are no more truck drivers to pay to deliver the groceries to the supermarkets, then ultimately the groceries will cost less. I was recently talking with a friend about automation in the fast food industry. It’s simply a matter of time before fast food restaurants no longer require workers. Hamburgers and French fries will be 100% made by robotic machinery.
Technological Unemployment and the Cost of Goods
Imagine a large pizza chain, let’s call them Pizza Preppers, who decide to automate their stores. Their pizza dough is made by an automated dough machine, rolled and prepared to an exact specification. The appropriate toppings are automatically cut and placed on the pizza as per the customer’s order. The pizza is put in the oven, cooked, sliced and boxed – all by machine. Finally, automated drones will deliver the pizza right to the customer’s door. All orders and payments will be handled online. When the shop is running low on tomatoes, an order will be placed with the distribution warehouse where a box of tomatoes will be packed onto an automated truck and delivered in an appropriate time-frame.
Imagining further into the future, when the distribution warehouse runs low on tomatoes, it will in turn place an order with the farming network. Farms will also be fully automated. Drones will be smart enough to go out into the fields and pick appropriately ripe tomatoes and deliver them to the boxing centre.
The boxing centre will automatically box the tomatoes and place them on automated delivery trucks to send to the distribution warehouses. Whenever the drones or trucks are low on power, they’ll automatically return to their charging stations (probably powered by renewable energy) where another fresh drone or truck will take their place. This cycle of demand, production and supply will continue on 24 hours a day with very little need for downtime.
Ultimately, Pizza Preppers will realise that their costs have dramatically fallen. Due to competition with other automated pizza chains, they’ll be compelled to lower their prices even further. In Australia 2016, you can already buy a large pizza for $5.00. When automation hits our pizza stores, I imagine the price dropping to $1.00, or maybe even less.
Eventually the CEO of Pizza Preppers decides that their costs are so negligible, that they decide that they don’t want money for their pizzas any more and find alternative ways to keep their company profitable (e.g. advertising on their boxes). The only thing they ask is that customers don’t abuse their free pizza policy, so implement measures to counter such abuse ...
Originally posted on my blog, Daily Rant Australia, January 28, 2016 by Andrew.
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