Are we necessary?

Columns

By Alexis Tucker, Managing Editor

Automation
McDonald’s has been testing self ordering kiosk stations since 2005. In some countries, most of the restaurants in the chain have these kiosks (up to 90% of McDonald’s have them in France). (Image from Kiosk Industry)

Science Fiction has been populated with robotic futures for decades, and they may be right about a few things. Computers at the stage we are at are indeed stupid, but that is something we are working on. Technology is developing much faster than many know. What happens when we aren’t necessary anymore?

All self-driving cars have to prove is to be better at driving than a person, and that bar is pretty low when considering people are hurt and killed the most by car accidents. The CDC says that 33,700 people die from car accidents a year, and for every person that is killed, another 13 are hospitalized and 135 are treated in the ER.

That is a lot of people, and of course, self-driving cars will never be perfect. As it stands, however, self-driving cars will at least in the near future be better than humans. Whenever that time comes, many people will be out of jobs from Taxi drivers to machine operators or any sort of job that would encompass driving.

As companies realize how expensive people are compared to automated machines, people will lose their jobs. Mostly, this is unskilled work like cashiers. McDonald’s in many places, such as the one in Wyandotte, Michigan, is shifting toward replacing cashiers with a kiosk.

Companies will find ways to cut costs, and cutting the human element is the biggest piece. Think of all the things that comes with paying a person. It includes pensions, worry of unions, workers comp, health care, parental leave and much more. With a machine that can do the same thing as someone on an assembly line, companies will just worry about paying an employee to keep the machine up and running, and on top of that, they pay a onetime fee plus any maintenance costs. This will destroy jobs, and the amount of people that gain jobs from higher skilled trades will not offset the destruction of jobs and even industries.

In 1969, Richard Nixon introduced the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Theidea  was to end poverty in America. Unfortunately, while there was support for it, the bill was halted at the Senate floor due to the Democratic majority.

This idea is very relevant today. If and when enough people lose their jobs, a universal basic income may be necessary because there will come a point when not everyone can work on a machine or get a job in the arts. While some fields may seem untouched by this, Doctors and other medical personnel already use computers to help diagnose people, so it is possible medical jobs will be affected as well.

The future has come, and we need to be prepared by these huge changes. Technology has advanced exponentially in the last century. It’s time we catch up before it’s too late.