Although much has been said about robotics and automation stealing jobs away from humans and displacing large numbers of people, relatively little is being said, it seems, about these technologies actually addressing labor shortages in the world’s largest countries.
Hikvision, whose robotic parking system aims to provide a solution to what the company describes as “the car parking problem,” may end up inadvertently solving the labor shortage issue China is facing now. Despite the fact that it is the world’s most populous country, China’s population is aging. Specifically, its working age population fell for the first time in decades in 2012, according to Shanghai Daily. Further, China’s working age population has continued to decline, amid slowing economic growth.
Therefore, not surprisingly, China is the world’s largest market for robots, according to the International Federation of Robots, which estimates that by 2019, China will account for 40 percent of the global industrial robot market.
However, in spite of the fact that there is much demand for such technologies not only in China but worldwide, the technology is still in its infancy and not only do technical challenges exist, but the costs of implementing such technologies are exorbitant in some cases. Nevertheless, the rapid increase in labor costs in China and other countries means that both governments and private corporations will no doubt look for ways to automate certain jobs, which takes us back to the challenge discussed earlier in this article, among others – the possibility of large numbers of people being displaced when their jobs are automated away.
We might ask, though, whether being a parking assistant is something many Chinese people, or citizens of any country, for that matter, would aspire to. Perhaps automating such mundane, routine, low-paying jobs would be beneficial for society in the sense that people could pursue more interesting, high-paying roles instead. But who are we to decide what jobs people should find interesting and fulfilling? After all, many people would argue that having a job, no matter how boring or mundane it might be, is better than not having one at all. Indeed, technological progress is not always overwhelmingly good, and we would do well to consider all parties involved when technology aims to automate certain job functions away.