Technophobia: The Fear of Advancement of Technology
Unemployment has been concentrated among those with little education or skill, while employment has been rising most rapidly in those occupations generally considered to be the most skilled and to require the most education. This conjunction raises the question whether technological progress may induce a demand for very skilled and highly educated people in numbers our society cannot yet provide, while at the same time leaving stranded many of the unskilled and poorly educated with no future opportunities for employment.”
Report of the Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress – 1966
The replacement of human labor with technology has been feared and bemoaned since Henry Ford’s car company premiered the moving assembly line in 1908. Technology, at its best, increases efficiency and decreases economic costs. Yet it undeniably has a human cost – the replacement of human jobs.
Before Ford’s assembly line cars were individually constructed by skilled workers, a slow and costly process. Automation was a game changer, and there is no escaping the ever evolving innovations of technology. What does this mean today for the American business owner, professional, or recent graduate, and for the American economy as a whole?
Increased automation and artificial intelligence have had a profound impact on all business models and business owners. In a TED Talk released in June 2013, Andrew McAfee of MIT’s Sloan School of Management discusses the effects of automation on the blue-collar fields and predicts its future effects on high-skilled jobs, foreseeing a major alteration in the future of work.
The discussion of technology’s impact on work becomes more heated when the unemployment rate is high. In 2007, U.S. unemployment was 5%; by 2009 it had climbed to 10% as the U.S. was hit with what came to be called “the Great Recession.” In 2013 the rate has ranged from 7% to 7.9%, still high in comparison to less than a decade ago.
More than 200,000 new jobs have been created in three out of the last four months. Yet according to a recent Wall Sreet Journal article, the economy remains 1.3 million jobs short of its 2008 peak even four years into recovery from recession, and despite population growth. Approximately 11 million Americans remain unemployed, with the ranks of those jobless for six months or more holding steady at around 4 million.
There is no denying that technological advancement contributes to the current unemployment rate. Moore’s law, coined around 1970, states that every two years the overall processing power of computers will increase twofold, and today technology moves even more quickly. More people and industries than ever before – front line workers, professionals, business owners, recent graduates – are impacted by technology.