Posted on | January 19, 2013 | No Comments
That means, year over year, tech becomes twice as capable and is offered at half the cost.
In a Capitalist system, this is really good news. Every year, tech gets faster and better. Investments in technology today yields greater productivity and efficiency, and more profitability for shareholders. Better tech yields less reliance on labor and more profitability.
Finally, these advances can be applied in parallel to many different segments of the economy. Example: better smart phones can mean advances in medicine, electric vehicles with better battery life, and progress towards artificial intelligence.
There are three emergent technologies that I think everyone should be paying attention to. They’ll dramatically change the role of labor in nearly every industry over the next ten years.
- Mobile Self-Service. Telephones, tablets, and “phablets” will become the principal mechanism that we receive information and interact with retailers and producers. Our mobile devices will become digital wallets and tools for conducting self-checkouts. This will enable firms like Walmart to shift self-checkout away from labor and into the hands of consumers through smart phone apps. They won’t need as much labor to conduct checkout functions, helping them to reduce costs.
- Self-Driving Cars. Ford, Google, Volvo, and others are refining technologies that allow cars to drive themselves. Licenses for self-driving vehicles have already been issued by the States of Nevada and California. Think of it: instead of investing in labor like truck drivers, the distribution problem can be shifted to robotic vehicles that can perform the work 24x7x365 with no overtime, no need for sleep, no family to go home to.
- Wearable Computing. A smart phone is a gateway for other logic to be stored on the body. Glasses, shoes, and clothing is being developed that’ll leverage the smart phone’s connection to the Internet to interact. Clothing capable of downloading new patters; glasses capable of recording events in real-time; the ability to send real-time health status information to anyone. Google’s Project Glass is in development and will be released to early adopters later this year.
Taken together, these three broad categories of technology represent a significant challenge for labor.
- Existing employees can become increasingly efficient when their natural body becomes the interface to a computer – we don’t need to hire more people to take on more work;
- Information about us can be gathered through automation and distributed electronically to anyone, anywhere – we don’t need call centers, representatives, intermediaries, or cheeky-sales-people – everything can be self-serviced;
- Physical movement of goods and services can be served by artificially-intelligent robots – why pay for a person when a robot can do it better;
- The accessibility that we have to information systems becomes more biological, more natural, more ubiquitous – our natural language and movements will become the new interface – lowering the learning curve for acquiring and using technology.
What this means is producers will be able to do more with less, even more dramatically than what we’re experiencing today, providing fewer and fewer jobs, and a smaller and smaller employment base. In the next ten years, these technologies will expedite the acceleration of returns and further along the end of work.