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The Tech Revolution Rides On A Wave Of Lost Jobs

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Uber lost over 1.2 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2016 - with most of this loss incurred as a result of paying its drivers. The company's long term plan is reap a windfall by getting rid of the drivers and replacing them with self-driving vehicles.

Fast food companies, pressured by moves to increase the minimum wage to $15 dollars have been concerned about profits. Their long term plan is to get rid of the part of their businesses that complain about low wages, ask for health care benefits and are generally inefficient - the humans.

"It's cheaper to buy a $35,000 dollar robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries." McDonald's CEO Ed Rensi

There are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States and over 222,000 thousand in Canada.

These truck drivers while crisscrossing the nation stop regularly to eat, sleep and entertain. In doing so they create an ecosystem of restaurants, motels and small towns that depend on their spending for survival.

In May of last year, the first self-driving truck was licensed to drive in the State of Nevada. If the project proves successful, it will make long distance trucking massively more affordable and decrease road accidents. It will also likely make millions (in America) and hundreds of thousands (in Canada) of long haul truck drivers replaceable -- drivers who earn high incomes and upon whom thousands of other businesses (restaurants, motels and small towns) rely for income.

If they lose their jobs many thousands of others who depend on their spending will lose theirs. The automated driver will never need to sleep, will never drive drunk and will never need health insurance.

Automation may decimate entire sectors of our economy and virtually no one serious is seriously discussing it.

"The new technological revolution has created millions of jobs (and that's great!) -- but jobs for who?"

There is an that assumption that the 'new jobs' which spring from the ashes of the industries they've replaced will be of such a character that the people previously employed as long haul truck drivers or fast food employees will find new employment.

This is largely false: long haul Truck Drivers in Canada make as much as $70,000 - $75,000 dollars a year depending on their volume of work. In the United States, they earn more than 46% of all income tax filers. When and if these people re-enter the work force it is likely to be at a significantly lower wage.

The new technological revolution has created millions of jobs (and that's great!) -- but jobs for who?

Largely for those born with the appropriate talents and skills required to excel within it -- for example, math or programming. Many millions of people do not have these aptitudes and no amount of training with provide them with ample quantities to be employable in even the mid tier of these industries. We will in the future need to confront the reality that millions of people will have little to nothing to contribute of any appreciable value to the economy.

The technological revolution is different; the industrial revolution took years to replace entire industries. This one takes months. Consider taxi drivers and their initial reaction to Uber. How many drivers, overnight, had the value of their taxi plates plunge from hundreds of thousands of dollars to nothing?

How much sympathy did the general public show to their plight? Very little. Largely because of the bad relationship between taxi unions and the public, but also because the union failed to make the public understand that many of them were one "app" away from a similar kind of fate.

We need to think of conceptualizing a society where people do not need to work to survive or find personal dignity. The technological revolution offers incredible opportunities but also enormous challenges. It's a pity we're hearing precious little about these challenges from our political leaders here in Canada or elsewhere.

As Trotsky once said, "Everything is relative in this world, where change alone endures."

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