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‘There is an enormous failure of imagination among those who think that we face a jobless future’
I just wanted to highlight just bit of this great Tim O’Reilly essay on automation, jobs, and Amazon:
I spoke recently with a fulfillment and logistics executive at Amazon who told me that robots have allowed the company to pack more products into its warehouses, and to speed up picking, so that it can put more products into rapid fulfillment. Amazon expects to hire another 100,000 workers in the next eighteen months, many of them in its fulfillment centers.
And that doesn’t include all the people working in actual delivery. Do you remember when the United States Post Office was seemingly on its last legs, cutting services and delivery hours? If you’re like me, you’re now getting multiple deliveries per day, and the postman might well show up in the evening, working overtime. Amazon Flex, Amazon’s peer-to-peer delivery service (akin to Lyft or Uber, but for delivery only) is apparently growing so rapidly that it may overtake Lyft as the second largest source of employment for on-demand drivers.
Nor does it include employment at the more than 100,000 small companies that use Amazon’s platform to sell and distribute their own goods. Many of these companies would have no access to the market without Amazon. (My brother is a good example. He runs a small distribution business out of a warehouse in Front Royal, VA, shipping used books, auto parts, and various imported products he thinks his customers might find interesting.)
Amazon reminds us again and again that it isn’t technology that eliminates jobs, it is the short-sighted business decisions that use technology simply to cut costs and fatten corporate profits. …
There is an enormous failure of imagination among those who think that we face a jobless future. The weavers of the 1811 Luddite rebellion, who smashed the machine looms that were threatening their livelihood, couldn’t imagine that their descendants would have more clothing than the kings and queens of Europe. Machines expanded the demand for the labor of weavers, augmented by machines, because it lowered the cost of fabric, and human creativity found new uses for that cheaper fabric, including decorating it with a constantly changing palette of color, cut, and design but also inventing entirely new kinds of uses, from surgical meshes to spacesuits.
Do read the whole thing.