Are we there yet?

Following the events of the past week you may well ask what happened to all the clever people’s prognostications and how the media could get things so wrong. Our interest, of course, is tech oriented and you may think it has nothing to do with politics in the USA.

Alas, it seems everything has to do with politics in the US, as over in Portugal’s capital Lisbon at the Web Summit Conference where 50,000 participants are gathered to celebrate their achievements within the technology sphere and to exchange ideas, discuss trends and brag about the latest innovations making life easier, greener and more enjoyable, the timing coincided with the election of the new President Elect.



In the panel discussion during Monday, when Hilary Clinton still looked like the likely winner, the leader of the World Trade Organization debated political insecurity in the digital era with the previous head of the EU-Commission among others, and it was noted that 3.5 million truck drivers in the USA would become surplus when the trucks became autonomous, i.e. self-driving as one example.

You may already have seen the video of the Beer truck transporting and delivering its load without the help of a driver but if not here it is:


And previous posts on the subject:  

So it rather looks as if the new administration in the USA having promised more jobs may be facing quite a problem, and as Mr Azevedo [WTO] said: “We need to find out what they [the drivers] are going to do instead, for right now we have no idea”.

There was a headline this past Thursday: “How the tech industry got Donald Trump elected”,  and the suggestion was that the development of digitalization will continue to lead to the loss of so many blue collar jobs, like taxa chauffeurs as a result of Uber entering the field, and the enormous growth of AirBnB where you can book overnight or holiday accommodation which is bad news for the hotels and Motels, which means jobs for fewer unskilled and low paid workers, in turn fuelling Trump’s election because of promises of more jobs.

According to an Oxford University study of 2013, some 47% of all jobs can be automated within 20 years and particularly in the unskilled and low paid professions, with other words from the very segment of the society in the US that feels overlooked and forgotten. These calculation were confirmed at the World Economics Forum earlier this year, and rather dismally it prognosed that the Tech industry would add 2 million jobs before 2020, however, at the same time eliminate 7 million jobs.


A Un report from the latest UN Conference on Trade and development points out that the developing countries in Africa and Latin America may be at greater risk of having their industrialization slow down because the use of robots is diminishing the advantage of low cost labour previously held.

In fact, it may be that introducing more robots combined with low cost labour could make a better workforce and if mixed with automation technologies might provide a competitive edge.

Solutions have been hard to bring forth and the Conference in Lisbon did not provide answers, it seems that new Start-ups and innovation on the whole is pretty good for the world, but some of the companies working on these innovations do not foresee the consequences that their products will have on the world.

Before we alI become too depressed by that kind of outlook do still have faith in technology as when used appropriately and sensitively it is, and has been, a boon to us all. No doubt great strides are made in development of robotics, but it stands to reason that if we are using robots to produce our needs then who will buy the products made if we earn no money with which to buy the products? The gains must therefore balance with the losses, unevenly at first maybe, but ultimately a balance will be found, Trump or no Trump.