Robots May Replace Jobs that Trump Brings Back Home
Recent policies that seek to protect American jobs are clear indication that Trump is absolutely serious about his promise to bring back jobs to America. However, when it comes to manufacturing, a different story is expected to play out. Many of the manufacturing jobs in the US are now being taken over by robots, thanks to the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities. According to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), dependence on labor has already reduced in the automotive, electrical and electronics industries. This makes it difficult for Trump to go through with his agenda of “America First”.
Some hardware manufacturers have resorted to machines over man, especially in regions such as Southeast Asia. It is not difficult for these companies to employ the same automation technology, even if manufacturing jobs are brought back to the US. The UNTCAD report explicitly states that “automation has left workers in developing nations without employment”. While Trump would have definitely faced some difficulties in terms of navigating geopolitics, policy politics and tariff settings, this is a brand new challenge he needs to confront. In fact, the report outlines an analysis of the labor market in the wake of AI, and mentions that this trend of using robots disregards the traditional labor-cost advantage that developing countries still possess.
One of the major reasons for this social and economic dilemma of no jobs being available, is the rise of AI startups with their slew of intelligent robots that can replace people for routine work. A number of such startups have not only kicked off, but are also receiving extensive support in the form of venture capital funding and mentorship. For example, Momentum Machines makes burger-flipping robots, Zume makes pizza-flipping robots, Rational Robotics makes painting robots, Modbot and Baxter have come up with manufacturing-specific configurable robots. And all these innovative AI startups are having no problem finding customers.
The technology and allied industries (including manufacturing) are excited about the potential of AI. Not only do robots drive productivity, they also cut admin and legal hassles of posting people abroad or offshoring. In the long run, costs are also contained. Of course, the outlook for robots in manufacturing is positive from an industry perspective — robots are getting smarter by the day as they are backed up with advanced capabilities such as deep learning, natural language processing, computer vision and so on. One can expect the future to be controlled by robot cashiers, security guards, flight attendants and more.
This definitely poses a grave challenge to Trump’s “America First”mission. The only hope lies in creating new jobs which require human intelligence or human skills — such as handmade goods and people-centric services.
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