Automation may not replace jobs as quickly as predicted

Automation is touted to be ready to take over many jobs, including truckers. Here’s a rebuttal, specifically related to truck drivers, from a comment at Marginal Revolution. A few highlights:

One of the big failings of high-level analyses of future trends is that in general they either ignore or seriously underestimate the complexity of the job at a detailed level. Lots of jobs look simple or rote from a think tank or government office, but turn out to be quite complex when you dive into the details.

I’ve been working in automation for 20 years. When you see how hard it is to simply digitize a paper process inside a single plant (often a multi-year project), you start to roll your eyes at ivory tower claims of entire industries being totally transformed by automation in a few years.

A lot of pundits have a sense that automation is accelerating in replacing jobs. In fact, I predict it will slow down, because we have been picking the low hanging fruit first. That has given us an unrealistic idea of how hard it is to fully automate a job.

Based on my own experience with setting up routine tasks for online-oriented jobs, the role of a human to adapt to changes is very underestimated.  It seems more likely that automation will be used as a tool by humans. It requires a different set of skills, but it’s far from robots working without human interaction.