Does More Automation Mean Fewer Jobs?


Without question, automation has improved the lives of millions. The speed, consistency and efficiency of automated processes has saved businesses money while producing more goods in less time.

For consumers, this has meant cheaper prices and consistent quality.
Automation has also spawned a timeless question, even dating back to the industrial revolution. Will further implementation of machinery eliminate people from the workforce, or will those workers simply adapt to new jobs?

Anton Korinek, Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has researched the future implications of automation extensively.

“From the perspective of business, A.I. is a great thing. It will allow us to produce so much more, earn much greater profits,” Korinek said. “But the societal challenge that it creates is the distribution of resources that it leads to will be increasingly unequal.”

Will there be a turning point where the impacts of automation on job opportunities are regarded as a negative? This is a topic Korinek has addressed in his recent research, ‘Labor in the Age of Automation and Artificial Intelligence’ (February, 2019)

“What has happened in the past half century or so is automation has increasingly crept up on what has been in some sense our last bastion of advantage over the machines, which is our intellect,” Korinek said. “In the last decade now, we have seen major advances in artificial intelligence and we have seen that even in areas we thought were ‘robot proof’, that computers can actually perform the most critical tasks.”

Forecasting the future of automation is something that comes with wildly different opinions, but its continued implementation will certainly change the workplace as we know it going forward, and society will have to decide the best way forward.

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