Middle class battles robot invasion


“middle… class… exterminate… exterminate…” Image: Sebastianlund/Flickr/CC BY

Unemployment is high in America, and has been for several years, with the rate stubbornly resistant to increase. There may be more behind that, however, than the recession, the subsequent economic downturn, job outsourcing and the policies of this or the previous administration. A new report suggests that, as technology gains ground, so middle class jobs for human beings decrease.

Middle class jobs killed by technology

The AP report, the first in a three part series on the dwindling middle class, asserts that an increasing number of jobs are being replaced by robots and computers. Most of those jobs will never come back, says the report, and it is a trend that is not about to reverse soon.

Specifically, the report found that about half of the 7.5 million U.S. jobs that disappeared during the Great Recession were middle-class jobs. However, only two percent of the more than 3 million workers added since the recession ended are earning middle-class wages.

Technology has been killing jobs for centuries. Consider how bow makers must have felt when firearms first became practical. However, in the past, technological gains eventually led to even more jobs (ie., gunsmiths) being created.

Killing more jobs than it creates

But some say its different now, because computerization touches virtually every industry.

Andrew McAfee, co-author of “Race Against the Machine” and head researcher at the Center for Digital Business at MIT, said,  “What’s different this time is that digital technologies show up in every corner of the economy. Your tablet (computer) is just two or three years old, and it’s already taken over our lives.”

According to the report, the efficiency of robots and computers has been killing jobs for more than 30 years. “Now, that same efficiency is being unleashed in the service economy, which employs more than two-thirds of the workforce in developed countries,” said the AP report. “Technology is eliminating jobs in office buildings, retail establishments and other businesses consumers deal with every day.”

A do-it-yourself society

Technology is rapidly turning us into a do-it-yourself society. Where once a start-up business needed to hire consultants and administrative people to get up and running, now much of that can be done online or with comparatively inexpensive software and apps.

“Had I not had access to cloud computing and outsourcing, I estimate that I would have needed 5-10 employees to begin this venture,” said Andrew Schrage, who started the financial advice website Money Crashers four years ago. “I doubt I would have been able to launch my business.”

Spoils to those that hire

The lion’s-share of the rewards of our technological boom — a boom we all buy into every time we go online or use a smartphone — has gone to the employers, and out of the pockets of the middle-class.


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