How Smart Technology Can’t Put People Out of Work

Christopher Michel [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Christopher Michel [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Smart technology is the rage these days. You have smartphones, smart cameras, smart watches, smart cars, and smart TVs. There’s even a smart fridge powered by Android, capable of running various apps. Technology has brought a lot of great things to mankind but isn’t it ironic how a lot of people fear it because of the belief that smart machines can take away jobs from humans?

A recent article on the Technology section of The New Zealand Herald presents a dreary outlook for professionals in the advent of smart technology. The article’s title attracts attention as it paints a rather gloomy picture of technological advancement – which is unlikely going to be the case. To appease everyone’s worries, the following arguments should be helpful.

1. Law of Supply and Demand

This is a basic concept in economics that can be a good way of giving those who predict hopelessness in the job market a comeback. No matter how smart technology gets, the economy will react in incremental terms. There will never be a change so sudden that governments are unable to do something to cushion the impact. Everything will happen with enough “slowness” to enable adaptation.

Here’s how the law of supply and demand comes to play. If companies decide to automate various manufacturing jobs with the help of 3D printing technology, people will obviously lose jobs. Without jobs, populations will lose purchasing power. This consequently leads to lower demand. Lower demand will mean unprofitability for businesses. So how will businesses bother automating if there’s no demand to meet? What do you expect would happen to the economy if every company decides to automate?

As mentioned earlier, the adoption of technological advancements will happen at a tolerable pace. A company may have to slash jobs but those who have lost employment can still find jobs somewhere else. Yes, this is easier said than done but this kind of scenario is way better than the idea that professionals will no longer have work because smart technology is hogging the jobs. It can even be said that the bigger threat is the cheap labor market overseas.

2. Creation of New Jobs or the Shift to New Jobs

The job shift consequence of smart technology and automation can be exemplified by what happened to banks. Before ATMs became commonplace, many expressed hesitations (even rejection from some) because of the impact on the job opportunities in the banking industry. However, it has been proven the ATMs have not taken jobs away from bankers, or the tellers in particular.

What happened was that tellers or bankers in general had been relegated to more complex tasks as the ATMs took over the simpler transactions. Also, interestingly, because of the effectiveness of ATMs, many banks found it cheaper to operate a branch, allowing banks to build branches in more locations to serve more customers. This is certainly not a disadvantageous consequence of adopting smart technology.

Image courtesy of adamr /

Image courtesy of adamr /

3. The Creation of New Opportunities

To illustrate how technology creates new opportunities to make up for the jobs lost, consider the world of smart devices and apps. After automation, electronic devices have become cheaper. This allowed more people to afford smart devices. In turn, the popularity of smart devices, smartphones and tablets in particular, allowed more people to make money by buying and selling these smart electronic devices.

Additionally, the prominence of smart electronic devices paved the way for the popularity of apps, which eventually created a money-making market for app developers. With Internet penetration also increasing, many have found opportunities to work as online telemarketers, social media marketers, or self publishers who make money through online ads. All of these opportunities have been achieved because manufacturing processes were automated so the prices of electronics have gone down.

Imagine a world where smartphones still cost a year’s worth of salaries. Imagine the Internet still being limited to the few elite people who can earn enough to pay for a decent bandwidth. Without smart technology and automation, progress stalls and new opportunities will remain unseen.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick /

The key here is adaptation. The advancement of machines is inevitable. Machines can very possibly displace people who already hold regular jobs that can be automated. However, it’s farfetched to claim that people will be out of work simply because smart technology has taken over. This kind of perception is shortsighted.

It’s not right to blame technology for unemployment problems. Technology isn’t taking jobs away from humans. It simply enables efficiency, taking humans away from doing tedious and monotonous tasks. Well, this means losing a traditional job but it also means opportunities to do something else more suitable for a thinking brain.