The Responsibility of Technology
Imagine entering a taxi. You do not have to state your destination because it was already entered via your phone, and it does not matter if you have a card or cash because you will pay with a fingerprint. Most noticeably it is not necessary to have a driver. The car drives on its own. These are all forms of tech presently existing, and a future that is a couple years away tops. The tech industry is growing rapidly, and threatening the american workforce, allowing major power companies to avoid paying for labor, removing social properties from everyday life and making our world much less secure.
The American workforce has been in danger and it increases as tech advances. Many jobs have already been taken over by software or machines, often those jobs that created the middle class and has resulted in a large wealth gap. Assistants and accountants who dealt with numbers all day, have been slowly replaced with spreadsheet programs. Automated manufacturing in which robots stand at assembly lines building devices instead of people who can’t keep up with the efficiency and low cost of the machines. Wasilly Leontief, a prized economist, states:
“The role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was first diminished and then eliminated by the introduction of tractors.” (par. 9)
In all areas of labor and data crunching, automation has taken over, leaving the technological age as a strong reminisce of the industrialized era’s destruction of farming, only this time, possibly worse.
The undesirable truth is that using computers is far cheaper than paying for workers. In many ways replacing our workforce with robots is not much different than creating factories to take over farms, and outsourcing to lower labor costs.
The Sydney Morning Herald, a online news source published an article about the suffering economy and Apple. The tech giant has possibly neglected responsibility to it’s founding country. Aditya Chakrabortty writes:
Apple is a byword of everyday sleekness. Yet there is another way of viewing the company. Focus instead on the way it does business, and all those iPhones, iPods and iPads aren’t just exemplars of design and user-friendliness: they are devices that destroy western jobs. And they do so needlessly, because if the California-based giant manufactured its goods in America rather than China, it could still make profits that would be the envy of every other US business. (par. 3)
Apple is one of the biggest tech companies in the world. It has products that are dominating in every continent, and it originates in the state of California. However, the unemployment rate has been higher in America recently than it has been since the great depression. Apple is a huge resource, and beneficiary for the U.S. but it loses all of the benefits because Apple would much rather pay $0.14 an hour to chinese workers. In much the same lights Amazon recently expressed that it wanted to replace much of it’s workers with robots. (Lobosco p.1) This may seem like a revolutionary advancement for Amazon, but it’s devastating to the workforce. Robots require maintenance and building, but compare that to an hourly rate for workers and a robot is far cheaper than a human employee. Robots have no need to eat, or feed their families. They won’t require transportation to and from work or new clothes to come to work in. Amazon has vocally stated that using machines could free up time for workers, creating a world where people could do other things, and let the machines do what they don’t want to. This portrait of a dystopian future is poorly fleshed out. Without jobs, it’ll be impossible for anyone to do anything let alone survive.
Prime examples of how technology has taken over jobs are as such; Assembly line workers are a liability and require training for each task, while assembly lines that use robots can program robots to perform different tasks without much effort, and are less time consuming to replace. Grocery stores have reduced the cost of labor by investing in self checkout machines, which require only one employee to monitor eight registers. Many delivery companies have started testing drone deliveries. Drones can deliver goods much faster and avoid any traffic delays, making the delivery man inefficient. Netflix provides a service that has not only eliminated movie rental stores completely but has endangered cable companies as well. Uber, a quickly rising startup uses an application to summon a driver who can provide a ride much like a taxi. This service has drastically affected the work of taxi drivers by stealing much of their revenue. However, even Uber drivers, though short lived, will be in danger of losing work soon.
Google recently started testing self driving cars for cities. These cars use sensors and a camera to determine where the lines in the road, and the cars around it are. It drives without any need for someone behind the wheel. Google has stated that the use of self driving cars would make the streets safer. Exemplifying that humans are the cause of accidents 95% of the time, due to physical or emotional distraction, intoxication, or simply poor decisions. (Ulanoff, par.5) What google has neglected to mention is how this may affect lives of drivers of taxis, rigs that carry supplies across the country, and bus or train drivers.
If you’ve ever worked a job that required social interaction you might have witnessed the next scenario. You’re attempting to communicate with someone but they’re distracted by their device. Perhaps they’ve received a text message, or they are swiping away at possibilities on dating apps such as Tinder. They’re contemplating a response but can’t seem to find the words, so instead send a GIF. ( a 3 second soundless video) that expresses in a snippet, what they are feeling. Their response from the person on the other side is an emoji ( a small illustration of a facial expression or symbol). Meanwhile, you have asked the standard, “How may I assist you,” numerous times and have received zero feedback from your techno-lost peer. This is common today. The over stimulation of people by their gadgets has reduced the ability to socialize. We result in wordless babel, sending each other pictures that only suggest an idea of what we may be wanting to say, all in all making socializing more of a detective game than a connection. (Depaula, Pg1) Jobs that require human interaction, social services, or psychological connection are the only ones that machines can’t take from humans and yet it seems that even that is at risk. As people start to interact differently, they connect seldomly and their ability to suggest advice is substituted with artificial intelligence. “Hey, Siri” may become the words we use while phoning for assistance instead of having an employed assistant who can run errands for us.
The much more daunting area however, is the realization that security is sacrificed as technology advances. Celebrities sued Apple for the holes in it’s security after multiple private photos were stolen from their Cloud Storages. (Moscaritolo, Pg1) Google has even been forced in several companies to stop providing people’s information at their request, and the President is banned from using iPhone because it isn’t secure enough to protect the President from important details being released. (Musil, pg.1)
As we shift towards technology we sacrifice privacy. Jobs aren’t only being taken by machines but at risk because vital information is so easily leaked. Target recently endured a large lawsuit, being hacked and leaving many of it’s customers at risk while information from credit cards was stolen. The CEO of Target, Gregg Steinhafel, lost his job after 35 years with the company because of the breach, but also because the company suffered from online shopping and delivery convenience.(ABCnews pg.1) As society switches from a dependence on physical real estate to comparing costs of products in store with products on Amazon, or Ebay, the store begins to suffer. After the breach, Steinhafel caved under the pressure of a falling company.
The constant changing of the world because of the tech industry is evident as to why major tech industries continue to dip their hands into many areas of business as a form of security. Facebook, which started as a social network, recently bought the Oculus Rift, a advanced product in virtual reality, and even bought out What’s App, an instant messaging application very popular worldwide, to eliminate competition with it’s Messenger app. Google which originally began as a search browser, has invested in mobile phone and tablet technology, computers, tv boxes, robotics, car systems, smart home automation, and of course, self driving cars.
Ultimately, there lies the question that should be asked much more often. Does the control these tech giant companies have on the world because of how significantly their products change our way of living create a responsibility to it’s consumers? Apple and Google have the ability to change our lives completely, and so far it hasn’t been entirely for the better, but it can be. These companies reflect a power that is so great, it is impossible not to insinuate great responsibility. With how much these companies make in all the areas they invest in, it wouldn’t be far fetched to imagine them providing simple well paid and beneficial jobs for people. If Apple built it’s products in the U.S. not only would it be contributing immensely to the economy but it would provide work for many americans. If Google created jobs that could be replacements for the ones losing jobs to it’s services then it could be more beneficial than conflicting.
Technology is a mere tool provided to make your life easier, but shouldn’t replace People. People are important, because you can provide an emotional and wise response to your work. These are the jobs we need. These are the companies that need to be started up. A future where technology doesn’t eliminate the need for social human workers, or cripple the sense of security but instead elevates the workforce by providing a more successful, less time consuming workforce. Now reimagine the future. You’re exiting the taxi and entering a building that has censored doors which open as you approach them. You’re greeted by a woman who asks about your ride and offers you a drink. This is your job. You work less hours a day but make more than what a typical person would a decade before. This is because the amount of work that one person would do is now divided and shared by three, while technology is used as a tool, to help us do our jobs better.
Chakrabortty, Aditya. “Apple and the Folly of Outsourced Manufacturing.” The Sydney Morning Herald. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.
DePaula, Rogerio. “A New Era in Human Computer Interaction: The Challenges of Technology as a Social Proxy.” (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
Lobosco, Katie. “Army of Robots to Invade Amazon Warehouses.”CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 22 May 2014. Web. 05 Oct. 2014.
Moscaritolo, Angela. “Google Threatened With $100M Lawsuit Over Nude Celeb Pics.” Pcmag.com. N.p., n.d. Web.
Musil, Steven. “President Obama Says He Can’t Use IPhone for ‘security Reasons’ – CNET.” CNET. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2014.
Newton, Asey. “I Took a Ride in Google’s Self-driving Car.” The Verge. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.
Rifkin, Jeremy. “New Technology and the End of Jobs.” New Technology and the End of Jobs. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.
“Target CEO Loses Job After Security Breach.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2014.
Ulanoff, Lance. “Google Unveils Self-Driving Car Prototype.” Mashable. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2014.