Human vs. Robot: The Battle for the Workforce

In class we learned how increasing productivity and efficiency of process can lead to larger profits for the firm. One of the methods used to increase productivity was the incorporation of robots into the workforce. We learned that robots can be used in a variety of ways, such as milking cows, constructing cars, or transporting. With decreased cost of production and human error, robots are among the most supported guarantors of future profits. However, not everyone supports the growing use of robots in the workforce. According to the Economist, robots are the death of the lower – middle skilled workforce and the beginning of “premature deindustrialization” (The Third Great Wave, p. 4)

The terms “efficiency” and “productivity” have always been referred to positively; as efficiency in process rises, productivity rises.” Thinking this through, we define efficiency as the better use of resources, the decrease in human labor per product, and the increase in output from freed – up labor, which ultimately should result in an increase in wages. In essence, to increase productivity, efficiency has to increase; and efficiency is synonymous with less cost and more revenue. Revenue is then used to reward workers for their high productivity. It is here that the robot-human conflict comes in.

It does not take a seer to foretell the replacement of low-skill human laborers by robots. The Economist outlines that, in a correct system, as technology replaces human workers; the higher skilled workers make more money and spend more money, creating new jobs (Technology isn’t working, p. 6). However, it is no stretch of the imagination that businesses are reluctant to increase the wages of their employees, and this issue is the problem. Average human productivity increased last year at a rate of 2.5%, while wage increase lagged at 1%. This shows that, as output increased, people earned marginally less than what would have been normal. Without increased wages, people cannot spend, and without spending, there is no new creation of jobs.

Furthermore, we know that robots do not require payment for their services. And as we saw on Monday, their accuracy and precision removes the problem of human error, making them the epitome of efficiency. These facts make them a more viable solution to increasing output. As the Economist observes, COOs and managers see that robots can dramatically increase a firm’s output without having to receive payment, and so they invest in more robots (6). This results in less need for human labor, which leaves many unemployed, which ultimately leads to less sales and more inventory.

As time moves forward, technology will continue to improve. We saw this with video cassettes to DVDs to online streaming and the ipod series, and now we are seeing the workforce demography change as well. I feel that businesses have to find a balance between robot and human workers in order to maintain cash flows. I find it interesting that something so helpful in the workforce could lead to such problems, and it merits discussion.

How do you feel about robots entering the workforce? Do you really think it will be all that bad? How do you think low-skill laborers will make a living if their jobs are occupied by technology that does not need money to survive?

“The Third Great Wave.” Economist 4 Oct. 2014: 56, 58. Print.

3 thoughts on “Human vs. Robot: The Battle for the Workforce

  1. This article brings up very good points. It outlines the pros and cons of having robots in the workforce. I think that with new innovations in technology the use of automated robots is going to increase significantly. I think in some cases robots can replace humans and improve efficiency, yet this isn’t always the case. For example the self checkout machines at many grocery stores are being taken out since human productivity is quicker and more efficient in that case. Yet I think robotics is very beneficial in situations were human error can be high such as surgeries. Doctors at UIC are learning to work alongside robots to do surgeries that are more complex and require precision. So I think if used in the right way robots can be very beneficial.

  2. In my opinion, robots entering the workforce is great thing for us and our economy. Even though some robots might it replace people’s jobs, it minimizes mistakes and increases productivity. At work, we just purchased a laser cutter to cut fabrics that is extremely precise. It functions by designing the shape that needs to be cut with auto cad and then sends the signal to the machine to do the work. What before would take more than double the time to manually cut fabrics in a certain shape, today with the machine it makes it so much faster and it is saving the company a lot more money. Today there is less of a demand for low skill workers and more for highly educated candidates to fill openings. The odds of someone going to school and getting a degree are much greater than before. Even countries like China are struggling to find low skill labor as we shift towards demand for high skill and high intelligence positions

  3. I believe that having robots perform low-skilled jobs is a good thing for the development of our economy. With fewer jobs focusing on man power, there is an opportunity for more people to become more educated, which leads to a more productive society. The workers that would be replaced would be forced to gain more skills in a specialized area allowing them to perform jobs robots cannot do, as well as increase the fulfillment they get from performing the job.

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