Technology has advanced so much, and the global marketplace has become so competitive, that even the world’s cheapest labor is being displaced by machines. “In 2011, Chinese companies spent ¥8 billion ($1.3 billion) on industrial robots. Foxconn, which build iPads for Apple, hopes to have their first fully automated plant in operation sometime in the next 5-10 years.” Nor is this trend limited to low-skilled industries. Teaching, medicine and law are increasingly aided by computers’ ability to translate, process data and perform legal research.
What’s the Big Idea?
Rather than fear mass unemployment, we have reason to be optimistic about the influence of mechanization over modern industry. If profits from automated industries of the future are distributed in an equitable manner, the human race has a lot of leisure to look forward to. “Why not take advantage of automation to reduce the average working week from 40 hours to 30, and then to 20, and then to ten, with each diminishing block of labor time counting as a full time job? This would be possible if the gains from automation were not mostly seized by the rich and powerful, but were distributed fairly instead.”