Techno-Jeebies: Answering Automation & AI Anxieties

toy robot

(4-min read)

We all have that friend who won’t let a smart speaker into their house, who hides from webcams and refuses to buy anything online. (This may or may not be the same person who claimed that Beta Max was superior to VHS in the 1980s.) Regardless, whether it’s due to movies like Terminator, the Matrix, or even Metropolis (yes, we’ve been afraid of robots for nearly 100 years), or it’s just our fear of what we don’t understand, many people have severe anxieties revolving around new technology. While some of these fears are regarding technology spying on us, some concerns seem to have more to do with our wallets—that of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) stealing jobs from fellow humans. Let us quell your fears with the following points.

Technology frees up time by knocking over barriers to collaboration.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to have a business meeting with an associate two states over, this was an arduous ordeal. You would likely have to travel for at least a half-day for a single sit down. While you could simply call them on the phone, various communication cues are missing from a telephone call. Today, however, any associate is fully available at most any prearranged time with crystal clear sound and HD video imagery. Technology has removed almost all of the headaches of collaboration with those outside of your usual proximity.

Automation allows for advancement beyond mundane tasks.

Automation has indeed taken many jobs once performed by humans. Factory positions where people once performed mind-numbingly repetitive tasks, day in and day out, sometimes for decades, have been replaced by robots who do better work in less time. This may seem like a tragedy for the working class, but it shouldn’t be. This growth in new technologies allows humankind to excel as a species. In the same way the printing press freed up scribes to become scholars, automation of these tasks by machines frees up the public to pursue groundbreaking achievements. If anything, the development of new programming languages and their capabilities has created a demand for more coders than presently exist. For every job that automation takes, it leaves the need for more jobs in its wake.

AI and automation are only as sustainable as the markets allow them to be.

Those who believe that AI and automation will take every working-class job greatly underestimate the consumer base of said class. Say the robots develop incredible products for the sake of selling them to the market—products once manufactured by the working class. While, yes, the wealthier classes will be able to purchase said products, if the entire working class is out of the job, that entire consumer base is also out of the market. Despite the immense riches of the 1%, they do not constitute the buying power of the world economy. Maybe the 1% are responsible for buying 100% of the world’s mega-yachts, but the rest of the world buys the products manufactured with the help of AI and automation. To think that the business minds behind these products would abandon this consumer base is an economically inconsistent fear.