The Automation of American Jobs

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The Automation of American Jobs

Ever since the first laborsaving device was invented, workers have been concerned that machines would replace their jobs — and to a large degree, these fears have been realized. 

Since the beginning of the first Industrial Revolution in 1771, countless manual-labor jobs in the developed world have disappeared because a machine could do those jobs faster and cheaper than any human could do them. 

In fact, the replacement of labor with capital is one of the principles of capitalism that enables it to drive standards-of-living higher by producing an ever-increasing range of goods and services, both necessities and luxuries, that are more affordable to all classes. 

However, some observers conclude that cheaper and better goods and services are irrelevant to people who become unemployed and, thereby, lose their ability to pay for those goods and services. 

That's particularly relevant in the current context, as we watch the inevitable march of automation embodied in robots and software completely replace individual jobs and even entire job categories. 

This, of course, is how "creative destruction" works.  It is a vital component of economic health and technological progress.  As this destruction and disruption occurs, job loss is inevitable. 

Recent examples of this would be the industries that have been transformed by new entrants like Skype and Netflix. 

Obviously, this phenomenon of jobs being replaced by automation has been happening for centuries.

What is now changing is the scope of jobs that are in the path of automation.  The most threatened jobs are no longer those requiring maximum physical labor. 

Much of the recent technological progress involves automation of cognitive tasks; machines are now taking over jobs that have long seemed safe inside the "human domain."1 

Over the past few decades, tens of millions of "information-handling workers," including bookkeepers, cashiers, and telephone operators, have been replaced by computers. 

Driving this move to computer automation is the incredible decline in the cost of computing since the 1970s, which is motivating companies to replace expensive labor with increasingly cheap and capable computers.2

We have also reached a tipping point as some sectors are now developing without any direct involvement from humans.  This is due to new advances in artificial intelligence and smart analytics, which enable computers to learn how to do things by applying themselves to big data. 

Because digital processes are talking to other digital processes and then creating new processes, companies are able to do more with fewer people, resulting in some jobs become obsolete...

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