Is The Internet Dooming Unskilled Laborers?

It’s hard enough competing with each other for a limited supply of jobs, so how are people supposed to compete with robots? If the current trend is any indication, it’s going to be darn near impossible in just a few years. The Internet paved the way for technology to oust human beings in the labor field.

What the Experts Say
Early last year, while participating in an economic think tank hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, Bill Gates claimed software automation would significantly decrease the demand for human workers in lower skill set jobs.

His statement followed closely on the heels of a report the Economist issued, which named over a dozen jobs they feel will be taken over by robots in the next 20 years. Telemarketing, retail jobs, and real estate agents are among those forecasted to have humans replaced with robots.

The death of the unskilled laborer might be coming sooner than they thought. Huis Ten Bosch, a Japanese theme park, just announced plans to open a hotel operated by robots and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The hotel, Henn-na Hotel, will utilize “actroids” to greet and check-in guests, eliminating the need for front desk clerks altogether. They’ll also have porter robots to replace maids, tablets for guests to use to order extra toiletries and doors that allow access through facial-recognition technology rather than room keys. The company plans to open over 1,000 of these hotels around the world.

Who Else Should Be Worried?
It’s not just telemarketers and hotel clerks who should be worried. Connecting technology through the Internet will make seemingly menial jobs like dog walking, in-home care for the elderly, and even taxi services carried out by automated programs and bots. There have already been efforts to curb the negative effects apps like Uber are having on cab drivers.

It’s possible smart technology could create homes that practically sell themselves or IoT kitchen appliances will make home cooks so adept they’ll never feel the need to frequent restaurants in the future. Waiters will certainly be out of a job then, as will chefs.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported Americans are less skilled than nearly two-thirds of the world’s developed nations. We rely on these jobs to keep the economy afloat and are unequipped for the technology boom that’s coming. This study also found that Americans score poorly on mathematics, reading, and problem solving, which are all skills needed to obtain well-paying jobs in a technological age.

As of 2013, over 60 percent of all jobs in the U.S. were classified as non-routine, meaning they required some type of extra skill, which is usually learned in higher education, in order to be performed well.

The Internet is set to wipe out a lot of unskilled positions over the next couple of decades, so does that mean the middle-class is doomed? No, not exactly.

The Solution
Much like it’s always been, education is the key to keeping Americans in the workforce. The Internet is responsible for eradicating many positions but it also creates new ones. For every mechanic who loses a job, there will be a computer programmer needed to ensure the software fixing the cars is in proper working order.

Many people believe there will be an uptick in positions for people who are willing to maintain all of these robotic innovations. For this to work, Americans are going to need additional education.

History shows that technological advances always creates more jobs, not eliminates them. Let’s hope this holds true down the road or the economic disparity of the U.S. is going to start looking bleaker.

Photo Credit: Chris Isherwood/Flikr

Author -

Ben Kerns is a fan of all things related to technology and the Internet, especially when it comes to discovering new ways to further merge the two together. When he's not plugged in, he enjoys the great outdoors, healthy living, and singing off-tune to cheesy country songs.

Share This