Opinion: Why workplace automation is going to suck donkey d*ck

Written by Will Wade, 24.

The only thing worse than having a shitty job is having no job. Well, robots are after your shitty job, and they don’t call in sick so they can get litty titty on the beach.

The current buzzword for this trend is called RPA. This stands for 'Robotic Process Automation' and its proponents will wax at length about the increases in efficiency it will bring. “Gone are the days of mindlessly ploughing through endless spreadsheets to do admin”, they cry. AI development is finally reaching a point where it’s not all just empty promises and pipe dreams. In truth, their work is ground-breaking and paves the way for a scientific revolution of unparalleled magnitude.

To me, "progress" would be a society where wealth inequality is less than it was in the 1500s

Odds are though you aren’t an AI researcher. So your only encounter with these machines will be in one of two ways:

1). You’re being replaced by them or,

2). Somebody else in your office is being replaced by them.

You’re a payroll assistant? You mean you’re redundant. You work in customer service? You just got replaced by Spleak, my dude. (I’m using offices as an example but don’t think you’re safe if you are a burger flipper or a cleaner because they're after you as well).

Based on the target demographic for this website, I can hazard a guess that you aren’t very far up your career ladder. The real crux of why this kind of automation is going to suck is because it’s knocking the bottom rungs off of the ladder. Breaking into the professional world is only going to get harder as more entry level jobs are removed and the elderly continue refusing to retire.

As is often the case...the rich got richer, and everybody else got blacklung.

Various reports give the figure in the UK as about 30% of jobs that are eligible for major automation. Most of these reports also agree that the majority of said jobs are low paying and low skilled, the sort of jobs that people take not out of passion but because they’ve got rent to pay. The workers of the UK who are already walking a tightrope with their finances. I am sure that with proper support these people could gain new skills and take their place in a vibrant new economy. But let’s be honest, we’re in “let's-sell-the-NHS”-Britain and state support exists only for companies who feel like they shouldn’t have to pay tax.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time we have seen widespread automation of labour in the United Kingdom. It happened before in this little thing called the industrial revolution. The same promises were carted out about how it would make everybody rich and that it would be a game changer. As is often the case with history, what actually happened was the rich got richer, and everybody else got blacklung.

The cold reality is that these machines exist only for the benefit of the people who own them

The false dream of automation is that everyone will benefit from the increased efficiency. That now workers are free from the daily grind they will have more time to spend pursuing the arts and technology. The cold reality is that these machines exist only for the benefit of the people who own them. The destruction of these jobs will close doors of opportunity to the most vulnerable in our society. Whether they were using the job to support themselves through university or caring for a family, by increasing the barrier to entry for the workplace these people are being condemned to a decline into poverty.

You might be reading this and thinking, "Get a grip you bleeding heart liberal, this is progress", and in a sense I agree with you. After all, when I am not writing shitty articles I work as a data analyst. I help automate processes and improve the efficiency of my office. Working in RPA and AI is the logical progression of my career. My fears stem from what exactly "progress" is. To me, "progress" would be a society where wealth inequality is less than it was in the 1500s, but hey, maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m missing the point and what mankind truly needs are robots doing tax returns (but like, really quick bro).

If you don’t trust me (which you shouldn’t) then have a read of these two papers: (which you probably won’t).

This contribution was written by Will Wade. You can read his profile and learn more about the voice behind the contribution, here.