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“Some experts now believe that computers and robots will take over much of the work performed by humans, raising critical concerns about the future of jobs,” frets MLive business writer Rick Haglund, in his article titled “Will we live in a world ruled by robots and computers, and fewer jobs for humans?”
Let me ask a related question: Isn’t that just a new, recycled version of the discredited philosophy of the British Luddites – the textile workers who protested in the 19th century against the introduction of new, labor-saving textile machinery during the Industrial Revolution because they were afraid that the new machines would eliminate jobs?
Jarrett Skorup of the Mackinac Center addresses the neo-Luddite fear of robots in his article: “Robots Are Good,” here’s an excerpt:
When this country was founded, approximately 90 percent of people worked in agriculture. By 1900, growing enough food only required 40 out of every 100 workers. Today, fewer than 2 percent of U.S. workers feed not just America, but many more people all around the world (see chart above).
The massive increase in farm productivity is purely due to technology. Farmers used to harvest grain with a sickle, but then came Mr. McCormick’s reaper, followed by motor-driven tractors and combines. More recently, chemical and biological advancements have greatly increased yields. With each advance, fewer workers were needed to grow food. To cite just one example, today American farms produce five times as much corn on 20 percent less land than 70 years ago.
And yet the loss of all those farm jobs did not produce 88 percent unemployment … because the greater efficiency in farming equipment freed up resources to move into other areas of the economy.
A main part of the workforce in America has gone from family farms to mass agriculture to manufacturing to service-sector jobs all because of technological advancements. The idea that new products will continue to substantially change the economy and workforce is to be expected.
MP: We should think of robots today in US manufacturing in the same way we think back about the introduction of the modern tractor to US farming in the early 1900s – they both revolutionized their respective industries, and led to greater efficiency and productivity, which led to lower prices and better products – and ultimately more jobs, not fewer.
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