Long ago, at the dawn of telephonic expansion in the world, if you were to call someone, a friendly lady would answer the phone and connect you to your requested designation. You’d dial “0,” then be on the line with a cordial switchboard operator.
You see, it was a different time with a different system, even for mundane tasks such as calling a distant relative. Although operators are now largely irrelevant, thanks in part to the simplification enabled through by satellite communications and other technological advancements, you could still dial “0” on your phone today and be greeted by another friendly lady’s voice. However, that voice now belongs to a computer.
It’s interesting to think how much the world has changed in such a short period of time. Since the Industrial Revolution, humanity — and all of its company — has witnessed exponential technological advancement in almost every facet of day-to-day life.
This mechanical and systematic evolution has morphed and refaced the workforce. As the incentives of cheap labor and exponentially more efficient forms of productivity have won a vote of confidence among CEOs and managers alike, automation has come to replace much of the human component of labor.
These claims can be supported by common interactions with the modern-day market. Instead of buying your groceries from a cashier, you may opt to check-out at the “self-checkout” kiosks, which now reside where cashiers’ lines once stood. In lieu of hiring a travel agent, perhaps you’d be more inclined to use computer websites, such as Expedia or Kayak. Think of how often you frequent an ATM instead of a bank teller to withdraw or deposit your funds.
These are simple yet grand-scale changes in the market that do indeed make capital flow with substantially more efficiency — but they are not without repercussions.
According to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, manned manufacturing jobs lost between 1996 and 2012 as a result of the growing robotic labor force went from under 20 percent to over 50 percent; the United States has seen a 30 percent job-loss as a result of automation. A study done by the World Economic Forum anticipated that 5.1 million jobs will be lost to robots by the year 2020. That number includes the United States and 14 other leading countries in the global economy.
Now, one could argue that this is a minute decline. In 2011, the International Labor Organization published its Global Employment Trend. At the time, with 6.9 billion people residing on the Earth, the trend showed that 61.5 percent of those people were employed.
Although 2011 may seem outdated, it wasn’t a technological relic in the major expanse of a robotic industry. Within the same vein, the International Federation of Robotics released statistics revealing the estimated annual supply of industrial robots to have increased from roughly 166,000 units in 2011 to 229,261 units in 2014.
Is this is all indicative of exponential growth in robotic integration, thus leading to a shrinking job market? Perhaps it is, or perhaps it’s just a sign that the job market is undergoing change — a familiar face, technological progress, rears its head once more. The result of that change could be gradual, or even drastic: job loss. Whatever the case may be, it can be seen that the ever-fluctuating economy has become a competitive one, where your future competition might not even possess a brain.
Daniel Ceruti is a contributing columnist for the Central Florida Future.