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charlize burstein

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Debate: Technology will eliminate the need for human employees, and the unemployment rate will increase.

Technology is an easier and faster way to get a job done. It is obvious that technology increases the profitability of companies throughout the world. So why would I hire a human rather than purchasing the technology when the costs of them are the same?

Discuss the situation where you are going to choose one of them with equal conditions (conditions means the costs and several types of expenses).

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    Nov 22 2012: I have heard this argument in one form or another since the 1960s. What has happened instead is that each increase in automation is an increase in efficiency, which results in a stronger economy employing more people (although not in the same jobs as before).
    • Nov 22 2012: It's not that simple, see, in the developed world, since the 1960s the average number of hours a person works over a lifetime has decreased, populations have aged (so the worker/consumer ratio became smaller), without those factors there would probably be massive unemployment in all developed countries today. Also, the true breakthroughs in automation didn't take off until the 1990s.

      "What has happened instead is that each increase in automation is an increase in efficiency, which results in a stronger economy employing more people (although not in the same jobs as before)."

      No, that's not true in general: advancements in robotics and IT don't have to be accompanied by equally great advancements in other fields. For example, if an economy learns to make 50% of the workforce redundant with robots there is absolutely no guarantee that economy will at the same time invent technologies that allow it to prodce (at least) 50% more "stuff", stuff that robots can't make, using the same (fixed by definition) amount of natural resources, therefore there is absolutely no guarantee unemployment will not rise.
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        Nov 22 2012: First of all, the Fair Labor Standards Act, establishing the 40 hour work week, was passed in 1938. The standard retirement age of 65 was established at about the same time, so there has NOT been any decrease in the average hours worked in a person's lifetime since then.

        You have to think on a more macroeconomic scale. While you cannot say. "General Motors lost 1000 jobs due to automation, but Microsoft gained 1000 at the same time." You can say, and economics have said for the last half century, that automation has grown the economy, which in turn has caused an increase in jobs. Don't forget to factor in the fact that our population has doubled since the 1960s, while unemployment has remained fairly unchanged over the decades.

        "Also, the true breakthroughs in automation didn't take off until the 1990s." That's just not true. I lost my assembly line job to a robot in 1982. Your limited historical perspective leads me to believe that you must be in your early 30s.
        • Nov 30 2012: "First of all, the Fair Labor Standards Act, establishing the 40 hour work week, was passed in 1938. The standard retirement age of 65 was established at about the same time, so there has NOT been any decrease in the average hours worked in a person's lifetime since then."

          You mean in America, it happened much later in Europe, where I'm from. My country had a six day workweek until 1960 and in those days most people left school at age 14 while today half of them stay in school until they're 22 (and that's true of America as well), in addition many people now retire at an earlier age than 65, which used to be rare in 1960. Finally I'll repeat that the workers/retirees ratio has decreased markedly since the 1960s and that employment statistics count part time workers.

          "I lost my assembly line job to a robot in 1982."

          Most automation comes from computers taking over administrative tasks, that didn't become big until the 1990s.

          "You can say, and economics have said for the last half century, that automation has grown the economy, which in turn has caused an increase in jobs."

          No, technological progress causes both automation and (real) economic growth, but usually not in equal amounts: it's much easier to find a new, more efficient software algorithm than to invent a new technology that makes cars more fuel efficient. This causes unemployment unless most (a minority could of course get the smaller number of newly created jobs in IT and robotics) of the laid off people get new jobs that a) don't really (help) produce anything, b) take up minimal natural resources and c) can't be done by a robot or computer (watch the movie "The Full Monty" to get an idea of what this means), this is just not realistic.

          "Don't forget to factor in the fact that our population has doubled since the 1960s"

          This is irrelevant because the increased demand caused by a larger population should of course maintain employment, until you get to the point of natural resource depletion.

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