Today, a tale of two stories:
One from Peter on oil industry automation cutting jobs.
Another at Borepatch about surgical robots not being all that.
And both, to a certain extent, are true.
So, let's talk turkey.
"Automation will replace all jobs by Some Imaginary Future Date!"
Yeah, not so much.
(Maybe about the time I get my flying car and jet-pack, you 1950s futurist lying bastards.)
You can replace some jobs with some automation, for some given amount of time.
So take a look at a mature technology.
Yes, there are far less farriers, buggy whip makers, mule teamsters, horse ranchers, and guys growing hay and shoveling horse poop now than in 1895.
And fewer horses used to move goods.
So, are there less people than the number displaced mining iron, making steel, building tires, assembling cars, drilling oil, refining gasoline, pouring roads, driving tow trucks, and fixing them when they break, or would the number of Group B be more than Group A?
Show your work.
Robots require guys to build the parts, then build the robots, then service and repair the robots, then write the software for the robots, then upgrade the robots, then swap out new robots for old robots, and load the materials into the robots so they can robot-work.
Even McDonalds will need people to load frozen patties into the cooking robots, top off the ketchup and mustard tanks, etc. We just won't have pre-literate Third World troglodytes and Common Core Trigglypuff grads trying to puzzle out how to input the burgers from pictures of same, and make change for a twenty without taking off their shoes. That's akin to telling me that the DMV will be replacing the fifty people doing make-work jobs with five machines that will actually work, without taking two-hour potty breaks, and don't come with a pre-loaded Entitlement Chip and surly attitude. (And, for the killer app bonus, machines don't rack up annual accrual deficits against the state's bankrupt pension fund. They also don't get promotions, or need family leave. They just get melted down for scrap when they quit working.)
Be still, my beating heart!
Back in the 1960s-70s, mom worked for Ma Bell. In accounting. Where computers(!) were going to decrease the amount of paper they handled. I went to every year of school from K-university using the back of reams of discarded paper as my art and scratch paper from that brilliant foray into automation reducing anything, other than trees.
Cars saved people money - on hay.
They do not, ergo, save you money overall.
(And unlike horses, if you leave two of them in the garage together, they do not make a new small car every year that you can subsequently use or sell.)
Computers, done right, by a corporation dependent on the safety of the data, do not reduce paper or paperwork. (I work in healthcare, which in the US went to EMR after 2008: ask me how I know this.)
Look, remember the Skywalker Ranch bought some robots once to help them out with chores.
So, how'd that clever plan work out for them?
Yeah, Owen and Beru are definitely doing a lot less work afterwards.
Automation will not reduce jobs.
It can only reduce jobs that were formerly non-automated.
This will be true in perpetuity, until you can get robots to build the robots, in a vertically integrated manner, including acquiring and assembling the raw materials, service and maintenance, and programing them.
Skynet is a nice scary science fantasy, but it ain't happening, even in your grandkids' lifetime.
Self-driving cars? Sh'yeah, as if. It's funny when you have to re-try because a web page won't load. A lot less funny when, because of software/hardware/dead squirrel on a relay issues, your self-driving car doesn't load on the freeway, and your family is crushed, and the company(ies) responsible sued into bankruptcy. Or your self-flying jetliner flies into the ocean. Or a mountain, or a stadium full of fans.
Machines are tools. Tools are helpful.
But anybody who thinks you can get rid of shovels because of machinery should come help me put in sprinklers.
Or just go watch the segment of Fantasia accompanying Dukas' "Sorcerer's Appretice" for a wee bit of enlightenment regarding the limitations of any technology.
Ignore the Spanish overdub at the beginning.
Disney is slower to ban-hammer foreign language clips, apparently.