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The Future of Work: The impact of emerging technologies in unemployment

The Future of Work: The impact of emerging technologies in unemployment

By: Haikali Ndatulumukwa

Unemployment is one of the largest problems facing Namibia. There will be more graduates in the next few years in Namibia. Will industry be able to create enough jobs to employ so many graduates, given increasing levels of automation and current employment crisis?

My own concern is about the effects of automation on employment. In my nearly 2 years of being at NUST, I have grown increasingly convinced that Automation will have a major impact on employment.

Indeed automation is already having profound effects on employment, as former assembly line workers, postal employees, and bank tellers will confirm. Some Banks in Namibia have stopped recruiting tellers, what tellers for if I can go deposit money in the weekend at the ATM. Take a look at the fellow youngsters who used to work and collect parking fines? Are they still there or the automation took over? Where are they now?

Also, soon to be affected are even some mid-level professionals such as attorneys, radiologists, stockbrokers, and newspaper writers.

Sadly NDP5 have not said anything about this issue. I don’t think anyone has yet come up with any good answers to what to do about automation-caused unemployment. For the near future, we could put some people back to work by re-building and expanding our obsolete and inadequate infrastructure—highways, roads, bridges, schools, and so on.But automation will eventually impact those jobs also.

If society needs fewer workers due to automation and robotics, and many social benefits are delivered through jobs, how are people outside the workforce for a lengthy period of time going to get health care and pensions?

There are profound questions for public policy based on emerging technologies, the changing nature of the workforce, and the differential impact on various demographic groups. We need to reconfigure the social contract and figure out how to deliver social benefits in the new economy that is unfolding.

Technology is becoming much more sophisticated and this is having a substantial impact on the workforce.

Such robots are generally designed to surpass human capabilities at certain tasks, and if a robot should be given power to make “decisions” (which it must, if it is to do anything effective), how do we assign responsibility for it to act correspondingly “safe”? It is a matter of regulation to specify what these robots should not do while carrying out their actions.

Experts have previously said, “Don’t worry, automation has always created more jobs than it has destroyed.” But I believe that this time really is different. Yes, more jobs will be created, but I think many of them will be the kinds of jobs that can also be automated—thus no net gain (maybe even a reduction) in human employment. Creating human-level artificial intelligence (HLAI) is still the goal of many AI researchers.

True HLAI implies that any task a human can perform a machine will be able to perform also. And business people (in Namibia and abroad) will not hesitate to substitute more manageable and lower-cost HLAI for higher-cost human workers. Will enough non-automatable jobs be created for the unskilled and not-sufficiently educated? I think not.

Why do we have policies to promote the emerging technogy and automation yet we do not protect the interest of our economy such as its effects on unemployment. I understand that technology is needed in every country, but before we imitate other nation’s policies we must understand the current economic level of Namibia.

Am not against the Automation, but am just warning the policy makers and planning commissions to introduce policies regulating the Automation Intelligence.

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