There are various things that are occurring with the advent of technology. Technology has led to several changes such as on the issue of productivity due to investment in new technology (Nixon 28). This also has an impact on the workforce. A recent article by Deloitte addressing issues on the future workforce indicated that the workforce and the future of work is facing dynamic changes that are driven by; technological innovations, globalization, changing personal expectations of workforce participants especially by the millennial among others (Deloitte 3). The rapid growth of technological innovations in the workplace is a threat to millions of jobs across the world with serious ramifications shortly. The current system of education in the world today lacks the capacity to effectively equip students with skills that will shield them from being rendered redundant in the constantly evolving world due to technological innovations among other factors (Cogburn 1).
The fact that there is no clear plan of how to shield employees from being rendered redundant due to the massive technological innovations that are taking place today signifies a future with no work. A good reflector is the case of Youngstown, Ohio that was booming with steel business until the late 70’s (Thompson 6). The city was a model of the American dream for a long time in the 20th century with a majority of residents being in the median income bracket and most of them being home owners compared to other states. However, the technological disruptions in the late 70’s let to the loss of over 50,000 jobs and wages amounting to $1.3 billion (Thompson 6).
Technological disruptions today are at a staggering rate since they are not just concentrated to manufacturing jobs and have spread over to smaller jobs such as house cleaning. These disruptions compounded with the fact that the education systems designs in most countries tend to favor art related courses rather than craft skills such as architecture have increased the rate of joblessness tremendously since most art skilled jobs are being replaced by technology (Thompson 14). With the current trend, technological innovations are likely to usher in changes in the social and cultural setup of society as more people turn to craftsmanship and artistry as it was in the olden days to make ends meet.
Technological innovations have had a toll on the health of individuals; it has impacted on them in different ways. For people who lose jobs due to technological disruptions, such people are likely to be affected mentally as they are likely to feel as if they miserable in life and have no impact on the society (Thompson 11). According to psychologists jobs help people to overcome other traumas that they encounter in their daily lives such as loss of a loved one, being constantly involved in a routine helps them focus on the work and alleviate other thoughts helping them to heal. Hence the loss of jobs is likely to lead people to suffer from depression, madness among other ailments.
Due to the inequities that exist in the society that we live in today such as unequal distribution of resources, income disparities and lack of access to education a digital divide exists that favors one group while disadvantaging the other (Van DIJK 1). A good pointer of the digital divide is a comparison of America and Africa whereby the latter there is readily available digital technology compared to Africa where digital technology is still struggling to penetrate. An American citizen can easily get access to a job online compared to an African who has no or minimal usage of a digital device such as a computer. The digital gap, therefore, creates a social class gap between those who have access to digital technology and the disadvantaged lot who have no access to technology.
Today the world has become a global village because we can be interconnected and interact with any part of the world using the internet one of the innovations of the 20th century. The fact that we can communicate from any part of the world using technological apparatus has led to companies outsourcing jobs to different parts of the world to save on cost that would have been incurred in high wages and maximize profits (Friedman 5). Investors use such an opportunity to exploit people hailing from countries with high levels of unemployment by outsourcing such kind of jobs to them and offering insufficient wages.
According to Maynard Keynes, technological innovation might allow fifteen hours a week working and plenty of leisure by the year 2030. Benjamin Hunnicutt supported claims made by Keynes whereby he claims that technological innovations are shifting the culture from a labor force to a leisure type of force. In future people are likely to spend more time with their families than at the workplace and careers will no longer be a source of pride (Thompson 10). In this kind of structure, the government would have to re-draft policies to allow for having taxation on income households and redistribute the wealth to the society.
At the current rate with which technology is advancing, there is a strong possibility that the social and cultural well-being of most communities is affected. Today in most parts of the world, cities have sprung up with numerous skyscrapers and residential houses being erected to cater for the ever increasing population in major urban cities (Thompson 14). A majority of the employment workforce is concentrated in cities leaving smaller town’s marginalized. If a technological wave wipes out a majority of jobs held by individuals, cities will become neglected as most people turn to smaller towns and rural areas where living conditions are more affordable.
In Youngstown today a majority of the working class swing from job to job to cater for their living. With the current trend in technology, it is easier to find part-time jobs than full-time jobs (Thompson 13). The majority of companies are now developing business models that connect workers with quick jobs such as Uber a taxi hailing application and seamless which delivers meals on the request of customers who place orders online. The growing number of part-time jobs is an indication of the disruption technology has had on the traditional full-time jobs. The shift from full-time jobs to part-time jobs signifies a new era of employment relations driven by technology.
Technological disruption does not only have an economic effect but also entails psychological and social breakdown. According to a psychological study done by Mihaly and Le Ferve in 1989, many people are happier complaining about their daily jobs than they are enjoying too much leisure (Thompson 11). Hence most are better off working and are vulnerable to stress and depression while not working. In Youngstown after the technological disruption in the 70’s the city built four prisons to cater for the rising crime rate that was growing in the area. Depression, spousal abuse, and mental illnesses became rampant in the city; this problem would become more severe if another wave of technological disruption occurred.
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Technological disruption is a glaring reality that is already happening in the world today and if not checked will have dire consequences in the future. One of the ways to address this challenge is to opt out of capitalism and take advantage of technologies that are decentralized (Pistono 12). This can be achieved through living as cheap as possible by taking advantage of decentralized technologies such as solar panels. With such a culture whereby everybody strives to be dependent people can opt out of consumerism and capitalism.
Another solution that can be put in place is reviewing and adjusting of education policies to foster innovations (Deming 11). There is need to push for fixes in policies so that they can advocate for people to enroll in Stem courses which will result in increased innovations in the jobs market that are good for economic growth. Also, patent systems should be re-looked at to ensure that they encourage people to innovate since their innovations can be well protected by the patent agreements. The system should also address the ease with which people can be in a position to patent their innovations.
To address the challenges resulting from technological unemployment, Youngstown has developed a business incubator center to nurture fledgling ideas, this way the state of Ohio promotes the entrepreneurship culture (Thompson 15). Such incubation centers have recently produced some of the most prominent individuals in the world such as Steve Jobs the founder of Apple Company. The thriving businesses such as Apple and much more have created employment to scores of individuals in the world. Business incubators not only provide support for people to start up businesses but they also motivate the society to be innovative.
The government can help address the issue of technological unemployment by adopting a policy framework that helps to create artificial scarcity. Artificial scarcity is not a new development in the society governments have long created legal constraints in accessing some jobs and services (Perry 1). To practice law or medicine, one has to acquire a license from the government. Patents give one exclusive right to technology, the idea among others. These are forms artificial scarcities that are created by our legal systems. To avert technological unemployment artificial scarcity of jobs should be expanded to ensure that people are more innovative thus ensuring continuity in the economy.
Expanded welfare is another solution to technological unemployment that can be utilized. In developed countries there already exists social safety nets to cushion individuals who are unemployed, retired or the elderly from the harsh economic conditions (Perry 1). In the wake of technological unemployment, governments should consider expanding the social welfare services that they provide to the citizens so as to ensure that economically disadvantaged individuals have access to housing, food, and other necessities. Such form of arrangement would be expensive and disastrous to the economy but would help avert the problems that result from unemployment in the society.
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To prevent another massive technological disruption like the one experienced in Youngstown, there is need to address our education system to ensure that it can safeguard the needs of future generations. Innovation is key to ensuring that we create jobs that will be secure from disruptions that are brought about by technology (Hughes 1). Also, there is a need for the government to ensure that policies addressing the social welfare can accommodate those who have been made redundant by the technological innovations that have been taking place in the world.
Though a reality that is taking place in the world today there are economists who still to date believe that technological unemployment is a fallacy that cannot happen. The Luddite fallacy as it is famously known has been in existence for over two hundred years and argued that although automation does indeed displace workers, it leads to lower prices of goods (Perry& Kupper 1). The low prices of goods that are as a result of automation stimulate consumer demand which in turn provide the opportunity for new industries which in turn hire more workers. The theory has however been existence for too long and is a bit outdated for the dynamic changes that are taking place in the twenty-first century (Pettinger 1).
It remains to be seen whether indeed in this age of computer revolution whether at one point in time jobs will be completely displaced by technology. It also remains to be seen if innovations can create more jobs to offset the jobs lost by technology. Living in a world with no work activities is a nightmare that many hope that it does not turn into reality. However, there is not to prepare ourselves that time will also come when human beings will be overtaken as the most intellectual beings by artificially generated intelligence devices. This is also another glaring threat to humankind apart from technological unemployment.
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- Deloitte. The Future of the Workforce. Critical drivers and challenges. Deloitte, July. 2016, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/human-capital/deloitte-au-hc-future-of-workforce-critical-drivers-challenges-220916.pdf. Accessed on 18th April 2017.
- Deming, J., David. The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market. The National Bureau of Economic Research, August. 2015, http://www.nber.org/papers/w21473. Accessed on 18th April 2017.
- Friedman, Thomas. The World Is Flat A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, April 5. 2005, https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=cFqJ0biC89YC. Accessed on 18th April 2017.
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- Nixon, Richard. “Address to the Nation on Labor Day.” September 6, 1971. The American Presidency Project.
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- Perry, Jon. “The Decline of Scarcity: Why the Market and Technology Aren’t Playing Well Together (and Five Possible Solutions to Fix the Problem).” Declineofscarcity, http://declineofscarcity.com/?cat=4. Accessed on 18th April 2017.
- Pettinger, Tejvan. The Luddite Fallacy. Economics help, Jan 15. 2016, http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/6717/economics/the-luddite-fallacy/. Accessed on 18th April 2017.
- Pistono, Federico. Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy. Create space, 2014, https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=F_57BAAAQBAJ. Accessed on 18th April 2017.
- Thompson, Derek. A World without Work. The Atlantic Magazine July/August. 2015.
- Van DIJK, Jan. The Evolution of the Digital Divide. The Digital Divide turns to Inequality of Skills and Usage. IOS Press, 2012, https://www.utwente.nl/en/bms/vandijk/news/The%20Evolution%20of%20the%20Digital%20Divide/Evolution%20of%20the%20Digital%20Divide%20Digital%20Enlightment%20Yearbook%202012.pdf. Accessed on 18th April 2017.