Robots Are Becoming the Real Job-Killers

by Zachary Weisenthal ‘19

One of President Donald Trump’s top campaign promises was to “bring back the jobs” by cutting taxes, eliminating regulations, and pulling out of bad trade deals. However, the other countries that Trump claims are “stealing American workers” are not actually the largest danger to the U.S. economy. Rather, new technologies that are automating jobs in dozens of elds are the main threat to millions of American jobs.

American companies have been trying to reduce their number of employees since the 1940s, when the first self-service gas station opened, and later, when banks began adding ATMs to grocery stores and supermarkets. Employing fewer Americans cuts down payroll costs, and outsourcing work overseas offers competitive pricing that major corporations would not receive if they were to hire workers domestically. However, new technologies such as Amazon Go are actively reducing the need for employees entirely.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 856,850 Americans were employed as grocery store cashiers in May 2015. If everything goes as planned, Amazon Go’s model grocery store may put a majority of these jobs at risk. Amazon’s latest business venture will allow customers to walk into a store, pick up what they want to purchase, and walk directly out, without ever having to encounter an employee or wait in lines to checkout. “The store works with the new Amazon Go app. Amazon Go therefore uses the same types of technologies found in self-driving cars, such as computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. This technology can detect when products are taken or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in your virtual cart” explained Elyse Betters from Pock-Lint.com in her recent article published in December.

Amazon is not the only company beginning to implement technology into their current business model. McDonald’s has already began to replace cashiers with touch-screen kiosks, which will transform the way that their customers order food. Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 typically occupy service-industry jobs such as cashiers and fast- food workers, all of which technology will soon invade. These positions teach teens valuable lessons about earning money and responsibility, and typically pay minimum wage. Even jobs such as summer nannies soon could be replaced with robots that can adapt to children’s behavior using artificial technology, such as the “Childcare Robot PaPeRo” from Japan’s Nippon Electric Company. With the implementation of the latest technology, teens and other workers will have to find a new way to earn their income.

However, entry-level jobs are not the only positions at risk. With computers that can program themselves and self-driving cars, technology is beginning to reduce the need of jobs across the economy. App developers and taxi drivers are just one example of how technology could eliminate an entire industry that people rely on to make their livelihood.

Some students are working towards becoming a high-paying doctor or lawyer. The technology that will allow computers and robots to complete these intricate jobs that used to be considered “specialties” are right around the corner. Pretty soon arti cial intelligence will be able to do everything from interpreting MRIs to performing simple medical procedures.

While many high school students are submitting their final college applications and eagerly awaiting responses, they must consider how they put their expensive degrees to use. Robot automation will increasing take jobs that students are hoping to obtain. American students must shift their plans from what the workforce is currently like and prepare for the future that is sooner than teens might think.