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Will RFID Help to Enslave Us?
Some think robots and other technological advancements herald a world in which human workers are obsolete, but others see new opportunities for workers.
Ratner recently wrote an opinion article in The New York Times titled "Fear Not the Coming of the Robots." In that article, Ratner pointed out that "Throughout history, aspiring Cassandras have regularly proclaimed that new waves of technological innovation would render huge numbers of workers idle, leading to all manner of economic, social and political disruption."
Ratner cited a few examples, noting that every time, the doomsayers were proven wrong. "But that has not prevented a cascade of shrill new proclamations," he wrote, "that—notwithstanding centuries of history—'this time is different': The technology revolution will impair the livelihoods of millions of Americans."
Without new technologies, Ratner wrote, productivity cannot rise—and if productivity does not rise, wages cannot increase. "That's why, in the sweep of history, the human condition barely improved for centuries," he said, "until the early days of the industrial revolution, when transformational new technologies (the robots of their day) were introduced."
Rising productivity is good. Yes, some jobs are lost in the process, but more new ones are created. Is it possible to create hundreds of millions of new jobs? History suggests that it is. There was a time when most people worked on farms. It would probably have seemed impossible back then to create enough jobs to employ all the workers that would be replaced by agricultural machines—but that is what happened.
Companies need to evolve. Workers need to learn new skills. And governments need to adjust policies. That's what capitalism is all about. If we are smart about it, workers will wind up with a better standard of living than ever. Does anyone really want to go back to the days before the rise of the machine, when everyone got up at dawn to start doing farm work?
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.
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