Americans Think the Robots Are Coming for Many Jobs, But Not Their Jobs
. . . the Starbucks baristas don't, the local insurance agent doesn't, the Safeway store clerk doesn't, yet each year I buy more products online, and brick and mortar stores find it more and more difficult to make a profit.
"Even as many Americans expect that machines will take over a great deal of human employment, an even larger share (80%) expect that their own jobs or professions will remain largely unchanged and exist in their current forms 50 years from now,” the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank, said in a new report on public expectations for workforce automation."
This is the "my job is too important, too difficult to automate" syndrome.
I have returned to having groceries delivered. I did this back in the dark heady days when the dot com bubble was fully blown. But after the collapse, grocery delivery simply disappeared, and I returned to the time, and gas wasting trips to the store. No more, I am again ordering from Albertson's/Safeway, after finding ways to eliminate the delivery charges. Automation does not mean the old form of the job will remain at all. It is clear that we will, for the time being, have grocery stores, but how many? As people begin to order more online products, including groceries, the costs will decrease, and the providers will be able to offer delivery at the same cost as groceries in the brick and mortar store. This happened with Amazon, and its Prime delivery membership, and I now can purchase most thing through Amazon for less than or equal to the cost locally. The real benefit is I do not have to spend the time and money driving over to the local store, and then schlepping the product back home. The product is delivered to my door.
As I have posted before, an acquaintance who works as an insurance salesman, constantly argues that his job will never be automated. "It is too difficult for a robot." Yeah, right. If low level associate attorney's making $100,000+ per year can be automated, so can the insurance agent job. The thing standing between the elimination of the insurance agency job today is primarily the AI/voice-to-speech/cloud enabled "assistant." The ones I have seen so far tend to be very good with essential speech, and with lower function questions, but are not quite ready for the more complex questions which could arise in commercial insurance applications. As this tech function begins to fill out, one, or more insurance players will begin to offer AI/cloud based "commercial agents," and will be able to discount the premium by an additional amount. This will create a downward cost spiral which will result in the elimination of most if not all of these insurance agent jobs.
But perhaps I will be wrong and people really love having an insurance agent on the other end of the phone. Personally, I would rather have a 25% less costly annual premium, but, hey, that's just me.
The greatest disconnect in all of this is at the government, education, and nonprofit job level.
"Meanwhile, Americans who work in government, education and nonprofit industries are more confident they’ll outlast the robots. About 85% of these workers expect to be doing the same job in half a century, compared with 7% who expect robots will take over most of human employment. About 13% of workers at large corporations, medium-sized companies and small businesses think robots will take over."
Frankly, these people have the most to worry about from this AI based automation.
Government workers are nearly to a man low productivity, cogs in an extensive bureaucratic machine. The coming debt,pension, and municipal bankruptcy crisis will likely require these local governments, and by extension, state governments to reform, and become far more efficient. Whether this is through outsourcing of entire departments to the private sector, or through automation of jobs it won't matter, both will result in the automation of the vast majority of these relatively simple jobs.
Education is also in for a shock, with innovators from the outside like the Khan Academy, among myriad others slowly organizing a revolution in education.
I have no idea whether these innovations will destroy jobs, or whether they follow the model of automation in the past, and create more jobs, but jobs we do not know as yet.
In a final aside, this is one of the essential creators of the Trump phenomenon. We can see that automation is likely to "destroy" some jobs, but we cannot see the new jobs which replace the old. This unforeseeable outcome creates fear, add to that the fear that immigrants will be "stealing" more and more jobs, and that foreign countries like China and Mexico, are using low priced labor, and currency manipulation to cheat Americans out of their jobs. Trump is simple Malthus, reanimated, and made "modern," if that is possible.