The Washington Post recently published two articles that effectively illustrate the double edged sword of advanced robotics. Ruchir Sharma’s December 2 opinion piece affirming that “Robots won’t kill the workforce …” conveniently, misses more than half of the issue by showing only the wealth production aspects of robotics.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States manufacturing employment rose from 1945 to a peak of about 20 million jobs in 1980. It then dropped by about 8 million, or 40%, from 1980 to 2015 while manufacturing output almost doubled. Doubling output while reducing labor by almost half was the result of automation and robotics.
The trucking business is extremely complex and this brief discussion of it is vastly oversimplified but the key points remain: disruption in an industry has major effects years or decades after it occurs; and self-driving trucks and delivery vehicles are about to produce a disruption of unprecedented scale.