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Policy Development - Computer Automation and its effect on society
#1
Hello all
 
I originally draw up this document some months ago, but decided it was too speculative and not suitable for circulation as a policy development.
 
It was inspired by increased media coverage on the subject of automation and AI, something which has only intensified in recent months. Recently the FT ran a week long series of stories on the subject, as has the Economist, so I have now decided to circulate it for consumption.
 
Many thanks
 
Stephen
 
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Over the last year or so I have seen an increasingly volumes of articles in the press heralding a major change in the workplace and employment driven by an acceleration in computer automation.


It should be noted at the same time that robotics in itself is still lagging behind computer automation, but development cycles and step changes in affordable components are moving the technology forward at an increasing pace.


The idea of automation was originally envisaged as a way to reduce the number of repetitive tasks, freeing up people to do more complicate and abstract actions. This of cause had labour cost implications for employers.


The reality is that many of these more complex functions can now be done with relative ease by suitably developed computer systems.
Increased automation, such as call centre routing and automated banking has already reduced human employment opportunities. 


Self-service check-outs suit supermarkets as they can reduce staff numbers to a couple of supervisors for till issues, even if the ordinary customer prefers more costly human interaction at a manned check-out.

The result is that job opportunities are fast being diminished, most particularly for the semi-skilled, as well as the emergence of a squeezed middle whose technological skills have been commoditised in a very short period of time.


Another area of automation is additive or 3D printing, the creation of objects using physical printers using computer generated instruction, an area which has ballooned in the last 3 years. It is the evolutionary step on from the Computer Aided Design (CAM) technology of the 1980’s.


Companies embracing this technology have benefited from quicker turn-round times for orders, higher quality and decreases unit costs as well as the inevitable need for less skilled staff.


The financial and social benefits of automation should not be restricted to a small part of society by virtue of their technical skills or enabling wealth.


Changes to the world of work have not been mitigated by increased leisure time or enjoyment for all of society as many people imagined or fantasised. This is in part because such a phenomenon is not socially or economically achievable in human society, not least due to the lack of a sharing or abundancy mentality in our western society.


Whilst we should not seek to inhibit industrial development as a repeat of the luddites rejection of automation, we must remain sensitive to the fact that an increased number of people are being excluded from the working economy by a lack of vacancies and hence a living wage and career.


Where employment does exist, it is likely to be in the very highest creative areas, and restricted to the technologically most able and connected. Work is likely to be of a short notice, high intensity nature.


Where automation and robotics can prove an improvement to humanity, say in the care of the elderly or infirm it should be encouraged. Where automation, or potentially robotics reduced human participation, there needs to be a test to see if that steps benefits the wider society, and not just business.


One suggested remedy has been the adoption of a universal minimum income to compensate those excluded from employment, but as a policy this conflicts for finance with our Universal Inheritance policy.


A poorly managed transition in the employment market will potentially lead to the dystopian societies of science fiction, with an elite benefiting from idle luxury, whilst the majority find themselves lacking meaningful, secure employment, opportunity and security, as emphasised by our party constitution.


Witness the economic and social decline of the former steel manufacturing and coal mining areas of north England and South Wales.
These scenarios will not a happen overnight, but as a gradual process of social decline and exclusion perhaps over decades.  The current consensus is that such a sea-change in employment is likely to be 15 years away. This in turn gives us the opportunity to mitigate its social effects.
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Policy Development - Computer Automation and its effect on society - by ReadingLib - 05-23-2016, 06:57 PM

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