Task Automation and Jobs

Will automation and robotics replace most workers across the world? Which industries are at the greatest risk? What will societies do with and for people who lose their jobs? What can individuals, families, churches, and communities do to help?

By Mark D. Harris

By the 1920s, the automated production line, new tools, and the principles of “scientific management” had dramatically increased worker productivity in the US. In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that productivity would increase so much that in 100 years, his grandchildren would need to work only 15 hours per week (Bessen, 2020). This has not happened, of course, because of the vaster array of goods and services now produced, the much larger number of people those products are produced for, and the skyrocketing expectations of consumers throughout the world.

More recently, voices in business, labor, and the general population, have decried automation and robotics as job killing. CNBC reported in 2019 that 25% of US jobs, especially the “boring and repetitive ones,” were at risk for vanishing due to automation (Nova, 2019). Such predictions frighten workers and introduce a list of questions and policy problems. Whose jobs are likely to go? How can we retrain these people into jobs through which they and their families can thrive? What degree of safety net do we need to have for these people in the meantime? Will robots and other types of automation decrease the human need to work so much that in the future, Keynes will be right? Will we all be working 15 hours per week, or less?

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How to Improve Business Success During War

Global instability is growing, not declining. The world is less capable, not more capable, of handling such instability. What can companies, large and small, do to improve their success and that of all their stakeholders, despite war and instability?

By Mark D, Harris

Business has been international since before the Hebrew King Solomon imported peacocks from India (1 Kings 10:22). The Chinese traded all over East and Central Asia, Arabs bought and sold from western India to southern Africa, and the Vikings plied their wares from the British Isles to the Black Sea. The development of the blue water navy in the 1500s, including reliable time pieces and deep draft sailing vessels, opened the Far East and the New World to European traders. With technological advances in communication, transportation, finance, and production, business has become global at a volume and speed unimaginable to our ancestors (Hout et al., 1982).

All eight billion people on earth are consumers, but they are also producers. Trade used to be primarily local, and the farmers and craftsmen in a village and region provided almost all the goods and services needed. Family, friends, and other neighbors conducted business with each other, and little or nothing that a person possessed came from more than fifty miles away. Pricing could be flexible, with buyers and sellers negotiating on timing and price. During the recent financial crises, businesses and banks that primarily serviced Amish customers were more stable and even profitable than those seeking the highest rates of return. Contrary to the opinion of Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, greed is not good.

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