Monday, December 23, 2013

Job Losses

Whose jobs are the bots coming for next? Lydia DePillis of Wonkblog takes her cut here. Excerpts:

6. People who operate farm equipment

The history of agriculture has been one long tale of automation, to the point where almost nobody works on farms in America anymore. The exception was supposed to be people who operated the machines that replaced people who tilled the soil and harvested the crops by hand. But even they're not safe anymore, with the advent of tractors that can be piloted around the fields by computer or even programmed with the right coordinates and set loose, like a gigantic dirt-treading Roomba.

7. The people who make iProducts

After years of close scrutiny for the working conditions in its factories, Foxconn -- which makes most of Apple's computers, phones, and tablets -- decided to swap people out for machines as much as possible. The process hasn't been as quick or as easy as anticipated, but with wages rising in China, Foxconn has little choice but to keep cranking out the one-million-strong army of "Foxbots" it promised back in 2010.

8. The people who do low-level lab work

In North Carolina's Research Triangle Park, a company called LabCorp is hard at work developing machines to sort and split blood samples, which is just one of hundreds of thousands of menial laboratory jobs that pay decent money but could more efficiently be done by robots.

She has five other categories, of which I think fast food workers, retail salespeople, and warehouse workers look the most endangered.

Most of these workers are poorly paid and need little training. Automation may be taking a bigger bite out of the poor next time.