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Tomas Kutaj

Business Development Director , Netbit

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Is Information Technology destroying jobs?

Last week in my company we have delivered system that made one of their labour hard process automatic, which resulted into people losing jobs (in the clients company)

As a dev guy I think it is great to save hard work but on the other hand I feel guilty that people are losing jobs. What do you think?

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  • Oct 9 2013: I think technological progress is unavoidable. However society needs to ensure that technology innovation will not cause suffering and people feel the system if fair.

    During the last few centuries, new technology lead to job loss but at the same time a new kind of jobs were created. For example, computers replaced typewriters and at the same time created new jobs for programmers, designers, manufacturers, game producers etc.

    Today the trends seems different. The the current wave of technology is eliminating not only labour oriented jobs but also many office jobs. For example, self-driving cars, buses, trucks, taxes will eliminate millions of jobs. Similarly, in health care computers start to eliminate diagnostic personnel in hospitals, translators and various experts.

    Some of these jobs will be offset by new jobs in the service industry but can most people work in service industry? Some new jobs are opening in the service industry but will it be enough?

    The wealthy class that substantially benefits from automation needs to understand that they cannot increasingly accumulate their wealth without affecting the rest of the society. The society leaders need to realize that automation creates enormous wealth but it will naturally decrease the job opportunities for most people.

    We need either a system where minimum wage is guaranteed regardless of whether one has a job or not, or the society needs to employ increasing number of people for social services such as education system (e.g. have 1 teacher for 5 kids instead of 20) and health care, support of elderly etc. However we see trend in a different direction - governments are trying to save money by cutting jobs.

    If the wealthy will continue to keep majority of gains made by automation for themselves then they risk having people revolting against decreasing chance of finding jobs and money while automation leads to increasing wealth for the rich.
    • Oct 9 2013: I wouldn't go quite that far.
      Guaranteeing a minimum income means you'll end up having to pay people to do non-productive work. Aside from the obvious implications of wasting money instead of making good use of it for doing productive things, such a guarantee breeds parasites.
      This type of thing is one of the fundamental problems that brought down the communist block.

      People whose jobs become obsolete need to find new means of employment. The government would do well to help them along, but guaranteeing minimum income actually does the opposite, by encouraging people not to make the transition.
      • Oct 10 2013: Yes I do agree that guaranteeing a minimum income can be dangerous. Myself I grew up and lived in a communist country for almost 25 years. I could clearly see that if people were not rewarded then everyone performed poorly (why would you work harder for same benefits as everyone else?).

        What I am proposing here is a different scenario and implementation. In the (near) future, it is likely that many people will not be able to find a job because there will not be jobs for everyone. For example, imagine that all buses, cars, taxis and trucks become able to drive by themselves as Google car does. Where do you find millions of lost jobs for all truck drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers etc? Similarly with other professions: we now have in stores self-check outs, expert systems replacing even knowledge workers. This automation going to increase over time.

        So what I think needs to happen in such scenario is:

        a) government starts taxing the wealthy people more and employ 10x more people in health care and esp. in education

        and/or

        b) provide people with minimum wage guarantee. This might not necessary be a bad option because many people will not be happy with minimum wage. They will want to have a car, travel, have house etc. This will also ensure that jobless masses will not revolt against the government.

        and/or

        c) we pass laws that will force companies and people to share jobs. I see this as a really positive change where people will work 3 or 4 days and have more time for their family, their hobbies etc.

        cheers

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