Claire Cain Miller for The New York Times:
No candidate talked much about automation on the campaign trail. Technology is not as convenient a villain as China or Mexico, there is no clear way to stop it, and many of the technology companies are in the United States and benefit the country in many ways.[…]
Dennis Kriebel’s last job was as a supervisor at an aluminum extrusion factory, where he had spent a decade punching out parts for cars and tractors. Then, about five years ago, he lost it to a robot.
“Everything we did, you could program a robot to do it,” said Mr. Kriebel, who is 55 and lives in Youngstown, Ohio, the town about which Bruce Springsteen sang, “Seven hundred tons of metal a day/Now sir you tell me the world’s changed.”
Since then, Mr. Kriebel has barely been scraping by doing odd jobs. Many of the new jobs at factories require technical skills, but he doesn’t own a computer and doesn’t want to.
It is an unfortunate side-effect of technology improvments that more machines are taking jobs from people than any foreign country. Still, the idea of hiding from and avoiding technical skills is absurd. I understand that as time goes on, it’s harder to learn and start from scratch, but this change was telegraphed long ago. It’s just moving to new industries.
I’ve been really fascinated by these kinds of moves, as many retailers have switched to a self-checkout system and if you are used to the steps, it makes a lot of sense and, in the case of a few stations replacing one cashier, might be faster. I suspect we’ll see push-button fast-food ordering in the restaurant, as some chains already offer mobile ordering. The other aspect I’m watching for is self-driving semis, which can take a lot of the human error factor out of interstate shipping.