Automating The Workplace

Automation in the workforce, and across it, is an established fact of life. 

And it's becoming more pervasive. 

One of the interested observers of this unfolding situation is Tom Feeney, with the business group Associated Industries of Florida. 

He says the rise of technology, and automation, has been of immense benefit ... but there's another side to the coin.

"There is a lot of displacement, and there's a lot of challenges that technology impacts," he said, adding, "Manufacturing plants that used to, for example, have two or three hundred employees full-time now may have one-tenth as many employees."

It's not just manufacturing plants. 

There are few areas of the workforce that are not being impacted by automation, already.

To some degree, this is being offset by the creation of jobs that demand more education and a more highly-skilled workforce, but only to some degree.

The change in the workforce landscape may be most visible at the grocer or big-box discount store, where cashiers and check-out clerks are steadily being replaced by automated check-out stands.

But it also applies to fields as diverse as book-keeping, legal document writing, and even areas of the medical field.

New generations of complex robots and computer programs are arising to tackle more complex jobs.

Feeney says we're seeing the advance of machine learning, in real-time.

"There are extraordinary abilities, nowadays, that computers have to learn and adapt through experiences," he said. 

A striking example of Feeney's point comes from Asia.

Just recently, the Chinese retail giant Alibaba unveiled a new computer algorithm; an algorithm which scored better at reading comprehension than humans. 

As well, taxis and ubers may soon be replaced by driverless cars as automated vehicle technology advances.

Industry analysts say the robots and computer programs are increasingly sophisticated, and all signs point to further sophistication being the shape of things now and to come.

Analysts note that these machines also can do the same work as people, with none of the frailties or needs that come with a human workforce.

Robots can be maintained at a fraction of the price of a human worker, and can work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year without taking a single break.

Observers say that while many people are concerned about illegal immigrants coming to take American jobs, that concern may well be misplaced.

The real competition may be from the machines.

And they are already here.

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