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Daniel Milde English 1103 Campbell 10/3/13

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The Problem with a Utopian Society It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity Albert Einstein. Although technology has always been viewed as a vital step in the development of the world, the rapid growth and widespread use of it in the past decade has been unprecedented, and nowadays information can be found quickly through use of the internet. New medical technologies have increased the average life expectancy and scientists are discovering new ways to treat illnesses thanks to these advances in technology. With these astounding leaps in technology some leading scientists are proclaiming that this rapid growth may also have a dark side that we have chosen to ignore. The increased productivity in manufacturing through the use of robotics has shown that machines can far exceed the human quality of work, without the limitations of sleeping and eating. This begs the question: If machines are so much more efficient than humans, how long will it be before businesses choose to move on to fully automated workers? And if this does happen, what will our society do to compensate for the large lack of jobs?
Commented [SD3]: Delete the and and start a new sentence with nowadays to avoid runons

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As I sought out to answer these questions, the search focused primarily on the extent of automated manufacturing in todays market. It seems that what only a few years ago was an industry dominated by cheap labor, is today characterized by sprawling factory floors without any human interaction outside of overseeing the machines. This drastic change in the way products are produced is not only cheaper than hard labor, but more efficient. In fact according to MHI, a logistics and material handling organization, over 74% of manufacturing professionals are considering fully automating their facilities in order to cut down on unneeded costs. It seems that the more technology is implemented into businesses, the less variability that is possible in results. Despite the growing trend in implementing automated manufacturing, it appears as if this seemingly incredible efficiency comes with a cost. According to some critics these costs are real. MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee believe that the 79.7% efficiency in the service industry (which is due in large part to its increasing automation) is more disconcerting than relieving. In their book Race Against the Machine, the professors argue that the growth in productivity in the past few years of the United States has indeed been astounding, yet the usual increase in employment rates that couples with productivity has been unusually low. This is what the professors call the great decoupling. This unusual disparity has not been accounted for by economists, but Brynjolfsson claims that this could be directly related to the advancements in technology within manufacturing businesses. As advanced super computers and automated assembly lines become commonplace, machines are beginning to replace Chinese workers in their cost effectiveness. Whats more startling is that some companies are beginning a process of reshoring, in which manufacturing is brought back to the home country after outsourcing in order to lessen production costs. One
Commented [SD4]: Also state what MHI stands for

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such company is Automation GT, an American automotive design and manufacturing firm that has recently brought its manufacturing back from China to the United States. CEO and president of Automation GT Simon Grant says that because of the increasingly smaller scale of parts and machines it creates the potential for workplace injury, quality issues and an overall slowing of throughput, something that Grant believes can be easily fixed through automation. This newfound trend is only possible due to the cheap efficiency of robotics as compared to outsourcing, and it foreshadows a possible movement that may soon be sweeping the globe. Brynjolfsson believes that this trend may spread to other occupations as technology improves in the future. However there are those that disagree with this dismal prospect. Richard Florida from the Chronicle of Higher Education argues that technology alone will not endanger blue collar workers, but instead humanity will be responsible for the loss or gain of jobs in the future. A student discussion paper written by Karen Korzep discusses the effects of technology within the medical field, along with the risks and benefits of using such technologies as the da Vinci robot, which is used for advanced surgeries. She goes on to detail the amazing possibilities that robotics provides, but also mentions the figurative Pandoras Box of utilizing this form of technology. She argues that once begun, humanity may not be able to halt its progress in implementing robotics into every stage of life. This complete overhaul of the traditional workplace could ultimately result in a society where no one has to work. This so-called Utopian society could be a result of the overuse of technology within the foreseeable future. While this is a worst-case scenario (or a best-case depending on how one looks at it), many scientists believe that it is entirely possible. This raises more questions concerning the morality of proceeding with complete automation and offers a unique look into the future capabilities of the human race.
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While it is true that the automation of industries has become more prevalent, could it be that people are looking too far into the data?

As I dove deeper into research I discovered an article that argues directly with the view of Brynjolfsson and McAfee, in which the author contradicts what the professors say is the cause for the disparity in productivity and employment rates. As Robert D. Atkinson the author of Stop Saying Robots Are Destroying JobsThey Arent states, The reason why job growth slowed after 2000 was largely demographic. The number of adults in the workforce [] grew 18 percent in the 80s, 13 percent in the 90s but just 8 percent in the 2000s as baby boomers got older and womens entrance into the workforce peaked. He goes on to claim that Brynjolffson and McAfee neglect to consider the second order effect that succeeds the use of automating services. This effect, as Atkinson claims, is a natural economic process that follows automated services, in which money is saved, put back into the economy, and used to increase wages, which in turn stimulates the hiring of more employees by competing companies. This argument partly discredits what I originally believed was an undeniable fact, that the increase in automation was directly affecting jobs, and goes on to convince me that the state of this debate isnt as simple as it appears on television.

While automation has the potential to replace many human jobs, similar to how automated teller machines have successfully replaced most human bank tellers, machines may not be able to replace every occupation. Atkinson believes that it is too difficult to automate some physical tasks like nursing, or fighting fires, and in the process of automating some normal blue collar jobs, the skills that used to be required to run them are fractured. The growing fear amongst many young graduates is that the recent innovations in artificial intelligence have the

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ability to encroach upon many white collar jobs in addition to blue collar ones, inevitably rendering their skills useless. In Automation in industry: bleaching the blue collar, the author states that in the process of increasing productivity, managers relinquish the satisfaction and pride in the lives of workers and in some cases, this change from human variable to an automated one throttles rather than expands productivity.

As I focused on the morality of the situation, I chose to delve into something that people my age are beginning to struggle with: not finding jobs after college. Its a frustrating and disheartening state when a student studies for countless hours in school and spends thousands of dollars in order to achieve an education that should help them get a job, but ultimately fails to do so. What I wanted to find out was how the recent trend in automation has affected these college graduates job prospects and what was being done to improve their situations, but what I found was quite startling. According to, a technology website devoted to bringing in news in all fields of science and history, its not just minimum wage earners and factory workers that are at risk of job loss due to automation. The author of the article Think Your Job is RobotProof?- Think Again, Marc Lallanilla , details how some software programs are being engineered to think better and faster than a human brain, which raises itself as a huge concern for the modern world and the United States where the unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent. Even more miraculously some programs are being designed so that even writing advanced columns and articles can be fully automated, such as Narrative Sciences software program. This program takes statistics and financial data and applies it so that it can create an entire article. While the future seems bleak from this, the article goes on to say that all is not for naught. "The automation revolution is definitely happening. There is simply no way to stop it, says Raul

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Ordonez the director of the University of Dayton's Motoman Robotics Laboratory. "I think it will bring with it some pain in the sense that it will require all of us to adapt to it."(Lallanilla)

Despite the disagreement amongst professionals what started out as a look into the extent of automation into the manufacturing industry has resulted in a far deeper discussion concerning morality and economic gain. While it may be impossible to predict just how technology will change the job prospects of the future, I am sure that it has just as great a potential to improve the state of the world as it does to change it, yet it all comes down to what Richard Florida mentioned in his article Chronicle of Higher Education. Humanity has the sole power to determine the loss or gain of jobs in the future. What we do in the next decade could be the difference between impossibility and possibility. What we do in the next decade could be the difference between average life, and a Utopia.

Lallanilla, Marc. "Think Your Job Is Robot-Proof? Think Again." . N.p., 05 Apr. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.

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Commented [SD9]: I dont know why this is so big Commented [SD10]: Overall it was a solid essay with a lot of well done research and explanation. But I believe that he asked us to use actual in-text citations like with parentheses instead of adding it into your essay.