Technological advancements in transportation have resulted in making our lives easier and more comfortable. Back in the day, a horse and buggy would take Eliphalet Nott a few days to arrive at the ‘Big Apple.’ Now, a Union student can take Amtrak from Penn Station to Erie Boulevard in a few hours and complete their assignments online.
As a result of greater conveniences for travelers, productivity soars and jobs are displaced. A mother of two can drop her kids at the bus stop and take a subway to get to work. While on the way she buys her train ticket online, avoiding the unnecessary human interaction at the ticket booth. In this example, the mother has more time in her day to provide and care for her children because of access to convenient transportation.
Consequently, the person at the ticket booth is out of a job. The ‘Robotization’ phenomenon creates both positive and negative impacts on Americans socially, economically and politically. Huge companies such as Google and Uber are competing to create fully functioning cars that drive themselves and bring them to market. This ferocious contest took to the courts when one former Google employee, joined the competitor’s team and allegedly spilled secrets at Otto – an Uber production.
It is predicted that within the decade a computer will operate almost all vehicles on the road. The reasons are the costs to install a system are still too expensive for the average consumer and testing self-driving cars is only legal in a handful of states. Self-driving automobiles will revolutionize travel and shipping in the coming decade. Recently, an article in the Washington Post predicted companies would invest in this technology because a third of their expenses go to pay truckers’ wages.
Additionally, self-driven trucks will save money on gasoline and energy expenses by nearly 7%. Transporting goods at lower costs will likely reduce the cost of those goods being shipped. While it is nice to have cheaper prices in the supermarket, one has to wonder what happens to the unemployed, high school educated, 40-year-old man (the stereotypical demographic of a truck driver).
The company Otto has 90 employees and, in a short time, might be able to put millions of truckers out of business. Finding a solution to combat the impending collapse of the shipping job market is going to be a challenge for lawmakers. Bill Gates proposes having a “robot tax” on companies that own the robots that effectively steal human labor. The tax addresses income disparity between those who own the means of production — educated and largely born into wealth — and the folks providing the labor for production. Income inequality is a huge issue perpetuated by technological advancements replacing jobs of manual labor.
Robotization should not be looked at only through the lens of disproportionately affecting manual jobs. IBM’s Watson (super-computer) will ultimately replace jobs that require higher education and yield higher wages. For instance, lawyers and accountants are threatened by services like Turbo Tax and free legal advice communicated online. The future job market is unsettling because so many jobs are going to inevitably disappear. What is going to happen when millions of taxi cab drivers, delivery workers, bus drivers and truckers are unemployed? Should the best policy be re-educating workers through higher education?
Already many states and politicians argue for free two-year and four-year degrees. Car culture is so large; people may still want to drive as long as they can. Imagine an elimination of automobile fatalities caused by drunk-driving and human error. The impact of self-driving cars, prior to being available to the public, has started an important dialogue; computers are and will be taking our jobs.