There was a story a while back that highlighted a lot of the current divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” The story was how while stuck in a major traffic jam on a freeway, a son asked his Dad why they weren’t driving on the other highway (which he could see in the distance) that was pretty wide open. The Dad responded, “That is for the rich people, Son, we are not rich.” It seems that the area had a freeway (with no tolls) that most people used and the people with money in the area used the Toll road, which had a fee per mile of usage.
The divide between rich and poor has not been this big in decades in North America and one can only wonder how much of an impact technology, namely IoT-led automation, has had. While this boom in technology has created many thousands of high paying Engineering and Technology positions, it has eliminated many middle-class positions such as bank tellers, factory workers and travel agents. This trend is one that had no sign of slowing down, either.
So, when the news about how software-focused automation (namely AI-based solutions) are now going to have a similar type of impact on many white-collared jobs, such as analysts, researchers and financial staff, have we truly created two different work forces ... those who are involved in building the machines/software and those who look for work “scraps” not being replaced by automation?
There has been a big push by the Trump administration to bring back factories to the US. While this may be an admirable task, it fails to deal with one issue ... even factories that may come back will not hire nearly as many workers as before. One example is from Axon, who makes products like Taser and body cameras for police officers. The company used to have 80 well-paid workers at their factory, and they now have 4 robots who are actually more productive. You can contrast that to positions that are involved in designing and constructing robotic systems, which have seen a huge growth in the past decade.
So, this seems to fly in the face of the announcements of job growth in the US ... if that many jobs are being eliminated, where are all of the new jobs coming from? Most of them are in areas like Food Service and Retail, ones that offer much less pay than previous roles for the middle class. This has led to many having 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. Scarily, those jobs may be only temporary, as companies are trying to automate those areas as well.
So, what is the answer? That is beyond me, but we better start to move fast as this trend is only accelerating ...