Technology Replacing Jobs

Just a couple weeks ago, Amazon opened an Amazon Go store, where customers can conveniently walk into the store, shop for what they want, then leave without ever going through the hassle of checking out. This disintermediation concept is just beginning for the company through their acquisition of Whole Foods, experiments with local book stores, and a potential acquisition of Target. For consumers, this concept appears very appealing as it creates a faster and easier shopping experience, but it is also important to consider the number of jobs that will be lost due to the automation of cashiering.

This phenomenon is occurring outside of Amazon as well. For instance, in 16 states, toll booth operators have been replaced by automated systems such as E-ZPass. Additionally, McDonald’s and Wendy’s have added kiosks in some restaurants, allowing customers to avoid interaction and order on touch screens. A study was also done by Cornerstone Capital Group, finding that as many as 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk of automation in the next decade.

These disruptions have created positive effects for businesses in several different industries as they can decrease their labor costs with automation. However, the resulting layoffs cannot be ignored. Additionally, technology has drastically shifted workers’ desired skill sets. For example, years ago employers demanded labor with high manufacturing and productivity skills, and today, employers seek to hire employees with strong technical literacy.

Questions to think about:

-Does the good outweigh the bad; that is, is innovation worth lost jobs?

-Should the government get involved and cap the automation of jobs?

-What implications will this have in Michigan given the prevalence of the auto industry?

-How has technology shifted the desired skill set of the work force? How should we respond?

-How can schools/parents ensure that their kids are getting a valuable education given this changing climate?