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  • Calvin Cho

Rising Problem of the Century: Automation

In this 1966 BBC news, British students were asked what they thought the world would be like in the 2000. While they had varying thoughts, many of them listed “automation” or “robots” as something they saw as significant placeholders in our near future.

20,000,000. According to Oxford Economics, that’s the international number of jobs that’ll be replaced by robots and automation by 2030. Within the United States, researchers at MIT found that during the period between 1990 and 2007, one additional robot added to the workplace displaced three human workers. With such statistics, it seems so clear that the replacement of blue-collar jobs by automated robots will become a great conflict our nation will face in the next quarter-century.

The problem our nation faces regarding this issue is the lack of active awareness and addressing this issue has gotten. The first and last U.S. president to actively go around giving speeches was John F. Kennedy 60 years ago; since then, U.S. presidents have generally been underestimating the significance of this rising threat. Moreover, we can see deeper issues regarding this particular issue when viewing NGOs. Comparing automation to climate change, another prominent issue, we can see the lack of programs that are working to fix the issue. The fight against climate change has United Nations committees, commissions, and nonprofit organizations all across the globe but automation has only been addressed as subtopics in a variety of different organizations.

While there is bipartisan support to help worried workers, the problem is the lack of execution and action. The general idea behind support for automation in the first place had been that humans would take up managing positions; however, this predicted trend has not been seen.

During the Trump administration, former President Trump passed an executive order changing public employment strategies in hopes of opening more jobs to people replaced by automation. Additionally, he created the National Council for the American Worker in hopes of it being able to find resolutions to this issue. However, the number of people who were replaced has not been significantly changed either of Trump’s plans.

On the 2020 election campaign, current President Biden's platform promised billions of dollars to fund training to re-train workers at risk of replacement. However, given the recent budgets and bills proposed by the new administration, there doesn’t seem to be a place for “automation” to fit in. Still, at the time of writing this article, the president’s primary goal has been to fight COVID-19 and only time will tell what’ll happen.

Regardless of whether one comes from a blue or red state, this is a pressing issue for both parties, especially since they both aim to keep unemployment low while pursuing technological development. Smaller initiatives on the local and state levels have been initiated, but a split national government has not yet created a firm resolution. Hence, Americans must identify common ground that can spur brave and decisive action in making automation work for us instead of imperil workers’ livelihoods.

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