Computers: The Real Foreign Replacements

While reading “Automation on the Job” I can’t help but feel like the author, Brian Hayes, is contradicting himself with every sentence. He says that Americans used to be concerned that the computer would replace them and that this worry eventually faded. He says computers never had the effect that people worried about and then outlined how the factory has evolved through the use of computers and that two million people are unemployed today. I’m not insinuating that there is a direct correlation between the rise of computers and fall of employment rates, but I can’t deny that possibility based purely on the facts presented in Hayes’ opening argument. In an attempt to better explain myself, this is how I read Hayes’ argument: “People in a small town were worried their grass would grow too tall if they didn’t cut it. The worry faded and no one cut the grass. While it’s undeniable that the grass has grown too tall, it rains much more than it used to. A lot of grass grows higher than normal because the rain clouds absorb a natural fertilizer from a distant water source and fertilizes the small town. The time where grass grew too tall because no one cut it never came to pass.” I think the argument in the actual scenario is worse because the reason Hayes gives for the current economic recession wouldn’t be plausible if it weren’t for the advent of the computer. Transferring jobs over-seas is possible purely because of the technological advances made through the use of computers. So even if computers didn’t directly replace the need for a human in the work place (which Hayes admits did happen), then it certainly paved the way for the innovations that made replacing American workers possible. The example scenario would be even more relevant if the fertilizer was a byproduct of the overgrown grass. Also, Ninety-nine percent of the businesses I call make me jump through the hoops of an automated voice system before I talk to a human. This method takes several attempts before selecting the option that doesn’t give me a recording answering a generic list of questions I don’t need the answers to. This saves the company money by eliminating the number of phone operators needed. This cost me time and time is money. My mom was a victim of the downsizing caused by the cost efficiency of automated services. My stepdad has relocated and retrained for different positions several times in attempts to dodge the bullet. He started out troubleshooting problems on the phone with customers and was quickly replaced by an automated service. My mom used to handle life insurance claims and was quickly replaced by an automated service. The list of people I know replaced by an automated service goes on. Corporations downsize by replacing employees with computers to save money in the long run. My theory is that they then disguise it as individual performance issues to avoid telling people they’re being replaced by a computer. This theory explains why computers aren’t directly associated with rising unemployment rates. Before, computers replaced people in production factories. Recently, computers have advanced enough to replace human customer service representatives altogether. If the implementation of computers in the work environment didn’t play a role in the current economic recession, then I coincidentally know a lot of people that had similar jobs and were laid off around the same time. I’m not saying computers caused the recession, but they could easily be the solution for companies struggling to keep their head above water. These automated systems were engineered to replace the need for a human. There is no doubt that it takes a lot less people to maintain that system than the number of people it replaced. Fields that require specialists to maintain these systems have grown, but not enough to fill the demand created by the people it replaced. There are many factors that go into determining the cause of a recession in this complicated economic system, but it is undeniable that more and more people are being replaced by computers to save money.

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