Workplace automation favors machine over manpower


Photo Courtesy of I4U News

Jose Rodriguez

Automated systems are part of our everyday life workforce, from manufacturing to self-checkouts in a supermarket. The implementation of said systems replaces human workforce members, generating worries each time new technologies are introduced.

Recently Amazon introduced its new convenience store “Amazon Go,” which is said to open early this year in Seattle, WA. This store promises to provide shoppers with a simple shopping experience without lines, checkouts or registers, all thanks to machine learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence according to Amazon.

As these new technologies are introduced, questions and fears about the future of current workers arise. Since the Industrial Revolution people have worried about losing jobs to machines, however, experts argue that new technologies actually create new employment opportunities.

Automation systems do cause the loss of jobs in the short term, but not in the long term, according to UNO Instructor of Business Administration Management Christopher B.R. Diller.

“In the long term they’re going to end up creating new, different opportunities for the workforce.” Diller said.

Diller argued that for every new automated system, there is going to be the need for people to maintain it, program it and make decisions based on the outputs these systems generate.

The short-term effects on the human workforce depends on people’s ability to adapt and acquire new skills.

“The length of impact of these new technologies as they are brought up just depends on the amount of training and the motivation of the workforce to go obtain new skills,” Diller said.

Diller said it is also up to educational institutions like UNO and high schools to recognize this transition in the workforce and begin building training programs to be able to handle the process and demands of the workforce of the future.

Although current job positions can be automated, there are certain characteristics that a computer can’t replace for some people. This is the case for a computerized system for placing orders at a restaurant versus a waitress.

UNO student Ismael Pascual prefers self-checkouts in a supermarket, but he prefers the human side in a restaurant.

“A waitress is always better,” Pascual said. “I would prefer to have that personal connection, that personal interaction with my waitress.”

Pascual also said that if he has a particular question about the restaurant’s menu, he would be able to ask the human wait staff immediately as opposed to an automated system implementation.

Fears about major threats in the long run to the human workforce from current automated systems aren’t sustainable, as there are human aspects they can’t currently match. Diller also said that these systems are part of “artificially narrow technologies” and are good at doing certain tasks but not in the creative way.

Once artificial super intelligence technologies are developed, the discussion might be different, but it might be decades or even centuries before that happens.