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How It Companies Exaggerate Automation Narrative to Take Up Structural Changes in Their Firms, Particularly Downsizing.

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Devika Narayan, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota, suggests that IT companies are exaggerating this automation narrative to take up structural changes in their firms, particularly downsizing. She points out that many IT leaders are ‘flabby and overstaffed’ and so the effect of increasing automation may have been overstressed, as there seem to be other causes for labor reduction. The argument that the tech industry will create enough new jobs should not be overstated either as these newer industries tend to be the most labor efficient. They simply do not require a lot of people. According to the report “How Automation is Changing Work Choices: The Future of IT Jobs in India” by Simplilearn, the domains that will expand in the IT sector include big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and cybersecurity.

Another factor for the retention of human labor is that machines cannot make people instantly redundant. Jobs are not structured in such a hyper-specialized way. Modern work relies on human beings in the center and relies on their dexterity and agility. Besides, the increasing computerization will lead to more consumption and there will eventually be new kinds of labor required. Even if this argument holds merit, however, such revolutions have a long arc and human lives have a far shorter one. Unemployment may take time to redress, and many people may not see that change within their lifetimes.Robert D. Atkinson and John Wu of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) vehemently believe that this is all a false alarm. Atkinson and Wu in “False Alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850-2015.” state, “Such grim assessments are the products of faulty logic and erroneous empirical analysis”. Some of the forecasts are not as daunting when looked into closely. For instance, Schwab’s estimate of five million lost jobs by 2020 would be the result of just 0.25% of jobs lost annually in the period.

Governments may also ensure that companies initiate re-skilling tasks in their companies in order to retain their employees and use them in different facets of production. They criticise the Oxford percentage of forty-seven percent of jobs being vulnerable as “plain wrong”. They believe that its authors did not accurately analyze all the seven hundred and two US occupations. Their math suggests that only ten percent of those jobs are at risk, at the most. They commented that the researchers predicted that professions such as those of fashion models, barbers and manicurists would be taken over by robots. This obviously seems rather far-fetched. David Autor, professor of economics at MIT, suggests that improving the quality of any one part of a chain increases the valuableness of improving the others. Thus, he argues that computerization in fields such as medicine and teaching amplifies our advantage and increases the importance of our expertise and creativity and judgment. He then argues that as standards of living rise, consumption is spurred.

Many of the industries that were tiny a century ago-such as health and medicine, technology and computing- are massive today. As automation frees our time and broadens the scope of what we can achieve, we invent new products and give birth to ideas that occupy our time and instigate consumption. Thus, while increasing automation in fields such as manual labor and driving may drastically reduce employment, our standards of living will rise as production and consumption will flourish. As such technology becomes more affordable and feasible governments may implement safeguards for employees as they can be re-skilled, in order to mitigate unemployment. As horizons expand more will be created and consequently, people will become employed. There will, however, be widespread unemployment as these changes take place. It will be a matter of time before the advent of new industries rectifies this drop in employment.

In the meanwhile, automation will complement human labor in fields ranging from retail to science. Before I did my research I was not aware of how many jobs were susceptible to automation or the polarized views about the matter. For further research one can read the articles that Forbes has published and BBC have published as they have numerous articles on the matter.

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