“Oh no, that flamin’ technology is taking jobs again”. A very real threat that could be facing our society. The internet of things is advancing at a rate of knots, and it begs the question to what extent they are beneficial in the workplace.
The use of robots have been in affect since 1961, where a one-armed automaton were used for tasks such as welding. Now we see technology such as the Kiva Robot in factories, where they have revolutionised the day to day roles of the workers. First introduced in 2012 to Amazon warehouses the Kiva Robot has reproduced drastically, with now 45,000 robots being used across 20 centres. The £632 million pound investment is now essential to keeping up with the ever increasing demand facing Amazon, with an estimated 426 items being ordered every second. With the constant increase of technology it poses the question on the capability of robots; how much of what human does can be done by a machine instead.
The benefits of technology in the workplace has produced endless benefits, none more so then in Amazon warehouses. The time consuming job of searching through shelves, finding the product, packing it then shipping took on average between 60 to 75 minutes by human hands, now a 15 minute job thanks to Kiva Robots. Not only is it more efficient, they also take up less space than humans, with warehouses being able to accommodate 50% more inventory per square foot where Kiva Robots are in full action. Ultimately it comes down to whether technology can produce financial results and the Kiva Robot ticks that box too. The company’s operating costs have been slashed by 22% in Kiva equipped warehouses, in simple terms, saving a nice and tidy $22 million per warehouse.
It is all positives for Amazon, with CEO’s of Amazon being able to have a lavish bonus at the end of the year with the help of Kiva Robots. Positives is the only thing the Kiva Robots provide, completely eliminating the technology taking jobs argument says David Clark, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations Amazon. With these facts and figures being produced it is hard to disagree.
The internet of things is becoming increasingly powerful, adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical and retail work, but in professions such as law, financial services, education and medicine. With electronic payment on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge taking low-skilled jobs to the Da Vinci Robots potentially taking high-skilled jobs, the threat of technology is very real.
Perhaps the most serious disadvantage of the internet of things is the threat of taking jobs. Unemployment rates are constantly being monitored and sometimes an indicator of the success of a country, but in a money driven society, the benefits of technology seem way too high. By 2021, robots will have eliminated 6% of all jobs in the US states The Guardian. Yes, that’s right 6%! These jobs range from customer service roles to truck and taxi drivers. With big companies such as Google and Tesla working on driverless cars, the innovation is truly remarkable, but when Uber decide to look into the technology, the innovation becomes catastrophic. Violent demonstrations have taken place already in London, Paris, Madrid and Berlin against the Uber app itself. Now imagine the reaction when Uber decide to replace the driver… Exactly! Worldwide demonstrations will grow in force, with an even angrier message behind it, businesses and governments will need to think carefully on how much they want to integrate technology in the work place. Unemployment is only half the problem, potentially being a catalyst for downward spiral of problems, with proven statistic showing unemployment resulting in higher crime and drug use. About 1 in 6 unemployed Americans suffer from drug and alcohol addicting, double the rate of the working counterparts. This is very much a negative implication of living in a digital world, an implication that needs businesses to invest time to research the very possible effects caused by technology.
It is agreed the internet of things can produce benefits unimaginable, but there is a fear amongst the public about the huge stores of data. By 2020, it is claimed that up to 100 billion devices will be connected to private networks or to the internet. Critics question the ability of the internet of things being private, that personal data is readily accessible to be shared with anyone. A quote from the The Guardian perfectly sums up the fear the public have; “We live in an urban world of ambient surveillance we never voted for. We are no longer citizens enjoying civic space; we are crops to be harvested, we are potential risks to be controlled. The internet of things does all that for us and more”. There is a war against huge data machines, a war the public is currently losing. The whole idea is to ultimately help ‘you’ the consumer with better products tailored towards you but the process leaks of unethical practices'. At this rate of data gathering, the internet will know more about you than you know yourself, and with technology increasingly being used in all forms in and outside the workplace, the knowledge of the internet is only set to increase.
The internet of things is no doubt a part of society that is only going to increase because the benefits are too good to be true. Allowing people suffering from epilepsy to drive through driverless cars would have unimaginable 10 years ago, and so clear benefits can be seen. However, drawbacks remain, and will continue to remain unless they are acted upon. Technology taking jobs is no joke, it is a very real threat to society, which could lead to a host of problems. Amazon have set the benchmark on how to counter act this problem, with employees having robots as their work wife. Gathering data is eqaully a threat, constantly playing in the back of the mind of consumers with no real solution, but the vast beneficial gains is opportunity that will not be disconnected.
Coming into Digital Society course I was sceptical about the course content and how I could integrate my knowledge from the course into my day to day life as well as linking it to my other studies. Firstly this course has opened my mind to technological advances, and the fast paced at which this is increasing in our lives. Innovative technology as seen in DigiLab and across the course content has filled me with excitement, especially Viv, a personal assistant that could completely revolutionise the way we go about our daily chores. A future where you can come home to a delivery of new trainers, in the perfect colour and size without you directly ordering them is both scary and exciting. This sort of innovation has also challenged me to think about how it could produce beneficial results in my workplace. Working at Aerial Extreme, a high ropes adventure course, I have already suggested ideas on how technology can improve the workplace. Drawing on Amazon as an example, using technology alongside humans, I pitched the idea to use drones to monitor people around the course, rather than just humans walking underneath. Although a very bold and expensive suggestion, this is the sort of creativity DigiSoc has opened my eyes to. Maybe in the future who knows what could happen, lets face it, who would not love to fly drones around all day while getting paid!
One of the major gains I have learned is how to critically analyse the use of technology. Coming into the course believing only good could come out of the use of technology, this is a perception that has now been challenged. The implications of technology, especially in the workplace has both positives and negatives, and we as a society need to investigate on how to limit these negatives. Why? Because technology is inevitable, the use of it will continue as this course has shown me, so fears of society need to be addressed. How the huge stores of data will be controlled will be an everlasting concern and has challenged myself to analyse my own engagement through technology. This could be as simple as using an electronic loyalty card or sending a tweet, engagement through technology is an integral part of my day, and learning about my online presence has allowed me to monitor how I control my engagements.
The Digital Society course have been both enjoyable and highly valuable in teaching a variety of skills, that could be used across my other studies such as blog writing and crediting others. It has been 542,599 seconds since the last DigiSoc lesson till the completion of this blog, and this will be a course I will continue to look back throughout with great fondness.