In my last post on the Lump of Labor Fallacy, I made the point that many of the products and services we now demand are delivered digitally and that relatively few jobs get created as a result (even most of the software development may well get done offshore). As I also noted, however, machines are likewise taking over more and more of the work involved in producing and delivering tangible goods.
I think this is something that tends to happen inside the walls of warehouses and factories rather silently—while more attention gets focused on globalization and offshoring. (I’m not saying that those aren’t important issues as well, but I believe automation will ultimately be the trend with the greatest impact, and may even eventually act to reverse globalization to a certain extent).
Check out the video below (grabbed from Singularity Hub) to see how Diapers.com is using automation in their warehouse. The guy doing the talking has a pretty good job, but I worry about the longer term prospects of the one person you see driving a forklift. Notice how the workers basically fill in “dexterity gaps.” They do things that require lots of hand-eye coordination that the robots are not (yet) able to do: