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4 Reasons How a Robot Workforce Can Devastate Economies
Human Obsolescence Has Begun
As I sat in a local restaurant, I watched as workers clean tables, servers served food and interacted with customers, and customers engaged in personal conversations that sometimes invoked spontaneous laughter. I quickly realized the news of the Henn-na Hotel located in Nagasaki, Japan was a horrible idea. What was that horrible idea? The Henn-na Hotel is replacing 90% of its human workforce with robots. I’m very confident an android robot cannot invoke such spontaneous human interactions.
On July 17, 2015, the Henn-na Hotel will introduce its customers to a new staff, multilingual android robots. These androids will do everything from checking in customers to making beds. The decision makers were kind enough to allow a few of their human staff to remain until the androids are able to do their jobs 100%. Moreover, the androids won’t get upset if they don’t get a tip.
I’m writing from a human point-of-view, from a person who appreciates humanity and its many gifts as well as flaws. As I finished my breakfast, I began making notes on a napkin. I pondered how replacing humans with androids would impact our society. I wanted to break it down into points anyone could understand not just technologists. I have deduced there are four major areas of impact should this ideology is accepted globally: 1) Economic, 2) Social, 3) Emotional, 4) Social Resources, and 5) Innovation and Creativity.
Do you think businesses can function without humans?
#1 Economic Effects – Loss of Tax Revenues
Although I am not an economist nor do I have an economics degree, I viewed the impact of replacing a human workforce with robots very troubling. If implemented globally, local, state, and federal governments will lose tax revenues. This decline in tax revenue equates to no funding for education, health, infrastructure, and other services required to sustain a viable society.
Low-wage workers, particularly those in the hospitality industry, will be decimated economically. According to the website, Trading Economics, the current global unemployment rate is 8.2%1. In Japan, it’s 3.4%. With the potential android workforce, that unemployment rate will skyrocket, especially in those countries whose economies depend on tourism. Without tax-paying wage earners, how will these governments continue to function? Will the hotel industry decision-makers pay 100% of lost tax revenues? I think not as they haven’t been so quick to pay taxes so far. The impetus of this movement is to strictly avoidance of paying wages, healthcare and other job-related benefits.
Do you think you job will be replaced with a robot?
#2 Social Effects – Devaluation of Humanity
Technology has made many ‘socially brain-dead’. Some people sit behind their computer keyboards and rail against the machine without actual human, personal interaction. However, there are many of us whose very existence depends on personal relationships. Without the soft touch of another human, we all would wither away and die. I’m sure the Henn-na Hotel’s newest robotic staff seem human-like; but they are NOT human.
Those humans who lose their hospitality jobs will most likely suffer socially. Many were proud to contribute to their local societies, being a part of its improvement. There will be many who for whatever reasons, do not have the education or skills to transition into a new industry, their social impact will be unfortunately negative. Has the hospitality industry assessed this critical fallout?
#3 Emotional Costs – The Emotional Toll
If you have ever been unemployed, how did you feel? If you are currently unemployed, how are you feeling? If your employment was involuntary, it has a major emotional impact was immeasurable. Increased stress, self-doubt, and worry creep in and often become overwhelming. How will replacing human hospitality workers with robots affect those humans? Will the hospitality industry provide the needed services to help these individuals cope with the loss of their livelihoods? Will the hospitality industry throw their human workers out like trash? For those who believed this would NEVER happen, it has and your job is next. Do you remember the U.S. steel and manufacturing industries? If not, visit Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
#4 Effects on Social Resource
If there is a lack of tax revenue for governments, who will provide the necessary social resources needed to sustain a balanced society. For those replaced by robots, where do they go to receive financial and psychology help? Who will pay for these services? Since their tax contributions will cease, who pays the wages of those working in the following industries?
- social services
Remember, if replaced by robots, human wages cease to exist; therefore, that community’s tax revenue will deplete. Because of loss tax revenue, these five important sectors will suffer and become financially incapacitated. Therefore, many of those employed in the housing, medical, social services, transportation, and utilities industries may lose their jobs as well. The unemployment numbers begin to increase exponentially. It becomes a vicious cycle. The unemployed cannot afford to pay premiums, so what government can sustain such a financial burden and avoid bankruptcy?
#5 Stifling Human Innovation
People create products. Products do not create products. Robots cannot innovate. Maybe a few of the unemployed hospitality workers will pursue a career in technology. That takes time. Innovation isn’t isolated to the technology industry. How people interact with each other is the premise of the hospitality industry. The collaboration of humans results in the creation of robots not the other way around.
Not every human wants to deal with machines. Many want to deal with flesh and blood people who can truly empathize and sympathize. I’m sure the technologists who developed those androids did their best to impart as many human attributes as possible. Nonetheless, the one attribute an android will never have is a human soul, which isn’t created in a laboratory. Movies such as A.I. Artificial Intelligence and iRobot dramatize fictional emotions. Even these movies had heartbreaking conclusions.
Sure, androids can make your hotel visit more comfortable. However, the impact on global economies, societies, individual emotional health, community resources as well as human innovation and creativity will be enormous and devastating. As for me, I’ll take a poorly made bed by a human over a perfectly made bed by an android any day.