Robots Will Be the Biggest Job Creators Yet
If news accounts are to be believed, robots capable of doing the work we humans do now are soon to replace us in the workplace. As opposed to foreign competition for jobs, it's increasingly feared that technological advances taking place right in the United States will put many of us out of work as businesses replace low and high-paying jobs alike with mechanical devices that won't talk back, will never show up late, and best of all, won't require paychecks for workweeks that will render the notion of a 40-hour week quite dated.
Should Americans worry? Will the technological advances that increased our living and work standards immeasurably come back to haunt us on the way to unemployment? The pessimism is well overdone. Robots are going to be the greatest job creators of all, and in ways that will redound to all levels of work skill.
To understand why the future is blindingly bright we need to remember what entrepreneurs and existing businesses are wholly reliant on in order to grow. They require the loans and investment that allow them to turn what is a concept into a commercial reality. More specifically, they need cold, hard cash.
Yet what's important to remember about the search among entrepreneurs and businesses for cash is that it's not "money" specifically that they need in order to grow. In pursuing dollars, they're actually in pursuit of the trucks, tractors, desks, chairs, computers, and office space that money can be exchanged for. Entrepreneurs and businesses need resources if they want to prosper.
Of course, this is why robots promise to shower us with so much wealth and job opportunity. Precisely because they won't talk back, will never show up late, won't require weekends off, and will not clamor for paychecks, their rising role in the workplace means that the resources that entrepreneurs and businesses pursue as they seek to animate their visions will become incredibly plentiful and cheap at the same time.
What all of this tells us is that the cost of starting a business from scratch, or expanding an existing one into new lines of commerce, is on the verge of becoming the opposite of expensive. Compare this to last year when Wendy Guillies, president of the entrepreneur-focused Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, reported that half of young companies in search of credit had been turned down. Guillies' implicit point was that for small businesses, the resources necessary to turn ideas into profit-focused companies were rather scarce.
The rise of the robot signals that resource scarcity will increasingly be something of the past. As their ability to do all manner of work that used to require human inputs increases, so will the inputs necessary to start a business and expand it become wildly cheap.
The worry now is that robots will erase millions of the jobs of today on the way to national penury, but by that metric the destruction of technological advances like the tractor, automobile, ATM, computer and internet should have long ago been made legal. All are "robots" of a sort whereby they save on human labor inputs, all destroyed millions of jobs, but as opposed to putting us in breadlines, they merely changed the nature of our work.
Implicit in the fear of robots today is that the work we do now is what we'll do in the future. But as the rise of the internet alone has revealed in exciting fashion, technological advances that render certain forms of work redundant beget new kinds of job opportunities previously unimagined. In 2016, millions of Americans have internet-related jobs, but in 1996 the number of Americans working in the internet space was quite small.
The rise of the robot promises much the same in terms of plentiful and exciting jobs. Entrepreneurs by their very name are doing what hasn't been done before, and their only historical constraint has been limited resources. The resource-abundance that robots personify signals the opportunity for entrepreneurs to innovate in ways that will fascinate us and employ us at the same time.
Instead of fearing robots, Americans would be wise to cheer their arrival. Robots foretell an impressive future of wildly varied job opportunities precisely because they foretell plenteous resources for the very entrepreneurs who will create them.