Article | An Expedited Rise of Automation - FutureTales Lab

An Expedited Rise of Automation

June 23, 2020

The human race’s quest to improve efficiency by way of machines has been well documented, from inventing simple machines like the wheel and pulley systems to more complex machines like the printing press.  It is to no surprise that in the Digital Age, humans are developing advanced machines integrated with levels of artificial intelligence to meet rising demand of goods and services.   

Automation of this degree simultaneously inspires awe and creates fear.  For scientists and innovators, there is heavy interest in creating autonomous machines that push past the physical limitations of humans.  We’ve utilized this technology for decades in manufacturing and agriculture to great success.   Yet, as populations rise, along with demand for varied goods and timely services, advanced automation threatens the jobs for laborers who have few other means to earn an income and support a family.  

That said, despite advances in modern technology, there remain some job-providing industries that seem immune to automations looming shadow.  Jobs in the food service and education industries, for example, rely on human-human interaction to provide value to consumers, and are thereby perceived to be secure.   

In 2017, Oxford University published research about the feasible future of automation in 2035.  While 2035 is still 15 years away, the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated some of the economic hardships of industries that rely on human-human contact.  In industries that seemed immune to automation due to f human-to-human connections, COVID-19 now threatens job security, and emphasis on avoiding human contact as a safety measure is negatively affecting the value of companies in these industries.  As a result, businesses are likely to start investing more into automation to help mitigate future risks.   

What could this mean for automation in the age of COVID-19

  • Acceleration of adopting advanced robotics and automation, making it more difficult for recently unemployed workers to find new employment 
  • More investment in automation by large companies to mitigate revenue loss from their workers being unable to work and to cut expenses 
  • Implementation of robots in the food service industry, such as robot baristas in coffee shops and kiosk ordering systems in restaurants