Automation:
What’s At Stake?

With increasing regularity, automation is being brought into the news spotlight. In my case, most of this attention has been brought by a Democratic presidential candidate named Andrew Yang. He believes that automation is hurting the jobs of many in the industrial sectors, with truckers being the next to take a hit. I agree with him! I also think there are a few other sectors that many people have overlooked and jobs people have taken for granted (at least within the USA.)

As a nomad, I’ve had the chance to see seven countries in the past five months. In that time, I’ve seen just how many things can be automated.

  • In Ireland, we saw automated ordering at fast food places.
  • In Scotland, we saw automated ticket booths.
  • In Paris, we saw automated airport luggage check-in.

However, what has me thinking about the future the most is my own field, marketing. Within marketing, things get easier every day through automation. While it hasn’t gotten rid of my job, it has hurt my ability to find a full-time job and make enough money.

Automation Hurts Graduates

When I graduated from college, I couldn’t find a job to save my life. Eventually, I talked to my school advisor and asked if they had any advice or help. They said, “don’t expect a job for at least ten months. If you won’t leave Atlanta, you should give it at least a year.” When I asked around, I found that my school was right. The average time it took people to find jobs in their field (marketing) was at least ten-months, and most had to move!

I can’t say that automation is completely at fault. In truth, having over five business schools in one city was a major contributor. Within the city, thousands of new marketing graduates start looking for jobs at the same time each year. However, what they are looking for is shrinking. That’s why, after seven months of job searching, I went freelance and started getting clients right away.

Businesses don’t want marketing departments; there’s not much point in having one unless you are a mega-corporation. Rather, businesses want contract workers and freelancers. The most many of my clients have is a marketing director. This is the person who hires the contractor and works on sales while the contractor does the marketing for the business.

Now, that’s not to place any blame on the business. All of the businesses I work with could not afford to have me full-time. Yet, finding enough clients to make a living wage is a much harder way to live as a young adult. Where is the blame? The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Are We Really Going Through An Industrial Revolution?

Yes! Many have talked in length about how the world is changing this go-round. From self-driving cars to automated stores, phone centers, and more everything is simpler or not handled by people at all. This industrial revolution is taking us away from working full-time (or at all) mush like the first industrial revolutions took us away from using animals for power and making everything by hand.

What is Being Affected?
How? Does it Matter?

Fast Food AutomatonAt the beginning of this post, I listed a few of the things I’ve seen first hand starting with fast food. When I first got to Ireland, I was surprised to see that ordering didn’t take place via a person, it took place via a machine. However, upon using it, I found it to be better than hiring a person. There was less waiting and faster service. In addition, I was able to see each thing I wanted on a screen and customize it to my exact needs.

Upon asking a friend what they thought about this idea, I was told that they would never use it because it would take a job away. While I agree, these six terminals did take cashier jobs away, why do we focus on keeping jobs like these rather than finding new jobs that are better?

Airport AutomationYet, it wasn’t just fast food locations that this trend started to pop-up. The next space with automation was right around the corner — the airport baggage check-in. When my husband and I first walked up, we thought they were closed. Quickly though, we realized that rather than being closed, it was automated. Via two separate terminals, we could get the tags to put on our luggage and pass the luggage to the back of the airport. Instead of having a long line and two or three attendants (as we experienced in Ireland), we were able to use one of ten terminals in a matter of seconds.

Coffee AutomationYet, both of those are jobs that “don’t require a lot of experience.” Many might think those types of jobs don’t matter and that their job is safe. Such is not always the case. Moving up the ranks, a barista. While they don’t require much training, they require more than a cashier or check-in person — not too much to be automated, though. If you go to Japan, you can see these types of stations all over. From pizza and coffee to ramen and more, food automation is being taken further than the cashier. It’s taking out the whole line of employees from cook and manager to cleaner and cashier.

Going another step further, you finally get to my job, marketing. Though not as affected, we’ve talked in detail about how marketing is being affected by the fourth industrial revolution above. In addition, increasing the use of complex bots and online graphic design programs has seen some jobs, like engagement, go by the wayside, and business owners take over operations in two hours that used to take a whole marketing team.

How Can We Change and Prepare?

All of that news might lead one to ask what we can do to stop the spread of automation. In truth, I don’t think we can do anything but move forward. While finding jobs was hard, I changed and started looking for freelance roles. While cashiers might be normal now, they won’t stay that way for long.

Rather than focus on keeping everything at status quo, let’s start looking at how we can get ready for a world where “boring” and “low skill” jobs aren’t common! Let’s take our world to the future and embrace a world where no one works 40 hours a week, yet still makes enough to live. I can almost guarantee that the world will be a totally different place in the next few years.

While my job ten years ago would have been focused on TV and print, it’s now focused on websites and social media. Five years ago it would have taken a team over a week to make the graphics, write the text, get things printed, and published. Now? I can do all of that in less than a day for three clients. Who knows where we go from here. All I know is that more automation will be involved.