INTRODUCTION part of the gig economy, working in

INTRODUCTION

Nothing in
the world comes without a price. Technology today is an integral part of
everyday life. “Rapid advancements in the field have increased the pace of
life, effectively coordinating reality with imagination.”(G Nair, 2016) But like
they say, everything comes with its share of pros and cons; technology has also
harmed human beings in some way or the other. Although technological
advancements has made our lives easier than before but this is at the cost of
growing disguise and unemployment. Have we reached a point where technology is
now destroying more jobs than its creating?

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This essay
aims to critically evaluate the arguments present in White’s article by drawing
on claims from secondary articles and my research on the topic.

 

SUMMARY OF WHITE (2016)

White’s
article mainly outlines the fact that Technology is eating jobs and we are steadily
falling under its gloom. He starts by stating figures presented by the BRC (British
Retail Consortium) which mentions that 9, 00,000 jobs would be cut off by the next
decade. But why is that? According to White this is due to the impact of
disruptive technologies on existing patterns of employment, bigger and smarter
computers, and more online sales.
BRC warns that rising
costs due to the increase in “national living wage” and the apprenticeship levy
–introduced by George Osborne– could possibly increase the rate of job cuts. He
says this situation is similar to the time when automated production lines ate
well paid jobs a generation ago. If we aren’t careful now, it would end with
tech giants like Google and Facebook eating up all the jobs. He states ‘Keynes’
first spoke of this situation (technological unemployment)but this is getting
faster now as compared to its beginning in 1800s.This has further lead to majority
of the working population becoming a part of the gig economy, working in short-term
contracts as opposed to permanent, rewarding jobs which are reserved for the
few elites on the top.

White is sceptical
and questions if the current digital revolution technologies are overstated in
comparison to the first industrial revolution transformations like the plane or
the light bulb. Adding to this he mentions that ‘after aberrant few decades, we
would return back to stagnation and no steady rise in incomes for most people
and great fortune for a few.’ He also shares the views of other authors who are
optimistic about this situation and have a different picture of the future. He ends in a hopeful note
saying’ it isn’t easy,
but it is always worth trying.’ Society can’t be passive in the face
of high finance and high tech.All we could do is sit back and watch time play
its game and it might turn out great in the future

SECTION 1-TECHNOLOGICAL UNEMPLOYMENT

In his
article White puts key emphasis on the topic of ‘technological unemployment’
which is the loss of jobs caused by technological change. Technological
advances allow society to produce more output from the existing mix of resources
replacing human labour with capital. It was first mentioned by ‘Keynes’.
He thought that ‘this problem
was not going to be eliminated for at least another century and the progress
towards its solution would be incremental, resilient and relentless'(J Keynes).
The impacts of technological change take their time appearing. “They also vary
hugely from industry to industry. Although in many simple economic models
technology pairs neatly with capital and labour to produce output, in practice
technological changes do not affect all workers the same way.”(The Economist,
2014).Society may find itself sorely tested, as seems possible, growth and
innovation deliver handsome gains to the skilled, while the rest cling to
dwindling employment opportunities at stagnant wages. .”(The Economist, 2014).

I would
disagree with White on a certain level as through my research I came across a
different outcome of technological change which was rather optimistic. The
overall effect of technological change on total employment may be positive.
Technological change tends to increase the rate of economic growth. Higher
rates of economic growth are generally associated with lower unemployment
rates. While there are doubts about the enormity of this effect; there is enough
evidence to support that unemployment rates tend to naturally fall when the
rate of economic growth is higher.

‘Technology
both eliminates jobs and creates jobs. Generally, it destroys lower wage, lower
productivity jobs, while it creates jobs that are more productive, high-skill
and better paid. ‘(J Keynes). Historically, the income-generating effects of
new technologies have proved more powerful than the labour-displacing effects.
I would say technological progress has been accompanied not only by higher
output and productivity, but also by higher overall employment.

SECTION 2-INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION VS
DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Researching
on Whites question i.e. if the digital revolution is overstated against the
industrial revolution, I have collected the following data. Each revolution brings
about profound change from the regular, which emerges from a new innovation. “The
Industrial Revolution was marked by worldwide economic boom which brought about
efficiency in production. Now, the Digital Revolution is bringing splendid changes
of its own, throwing the world into the Information Age.” (P Hudson, 2013)

The
Industrial Revolution was a century long period of rapid change in the area of
production that drastically changed the life of those who were a part of it. ‘It
began as a result of steam power enabling labour power to be replaced by
machinery and ended with a significant restructuring of not just labour, but
the entire social and political landscape built around it ‘(The Economist,2013).
Plenty of old jobs were replaced by new as the Industrial revolution created
new economic opportunities on a large scale.
“The Digital Revolution is the current period of transition from a slower and
more localized means of distributing information to a much more rapid and universal
distribution.” It started with computerization nearly 60 years ago and is still
continuing, with its final outcome yet to be fully recognised. The advantageous outcomes of computerization
have been slow to come through. “This wave, like its predecessors, is likely to
bring vast improvements in living standards and human welfare, but history
suggests that society’s adjustment to it will be slow and difficult.” (The Economist,
2013)

The
Industrial Revolution ultimately ended on a good for ordinary workers granting
them high standards of living. “But this prosperity didn’t immediately
materialize. There was a period in which life inside of factories was miserable
for the labouring class.” (Kessler.S, 2017) Similarly the effects of the
Digital revolution may seem harsh now, but it’s just the beginning of a new
phase which would require it’s time to reform and shape into a better phase.

                     

CONCLUSION

Today machines
are not just smarter; they also have access to more data. This coalition of
smart machines and big data will take over some occupations wholesale; in
others it will allow firms to do more with fewer workers.

‘Change is
underway, ultimately, it is our actions today that will determine whether that
change mainly results in massive displacement of workers or the emergence of
new opportunities’ (G Roos). It’s evident that technology moves faster than
society these days, and hence it seems very likely that technology will destroy
jobs faster than it creates them. ‘The question is whether human workers will
be able to upgrade their skills fast enough to justify their continued employment’
(Ford M. 2015). Box CEO Levie says, “It’s easier to describe existing jobs
disappearing than to imagine industries that never existed appearing.” ‘He doesn’t
deny that automated technology will make some labour obsolete—he just focuses
on the long-term, big-picture opportunity for potential benefits.’ (S Kessler,2017)

I would
agree with Elon Musk when he says -“There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a
robot cannot do better, “and thus there is a hope for a brighter future where
humans and robots co-exist in harmony and prosperity.