How Communication and Automation are improving the way we work
In the last 100 years, technology has indisputably changed society more than it ever has in the whole lifetime of the human race, meaning we are in a new age of unpredictability. As this has never happened before, we are unable to look into the past as reference to predict future transgressions; we may be heading towards a brighter future with introductions into robotics and long distance communication, or heading towards catastrophe with uncontrollable development in AI, catapulting ourselves into destruction with new powers we cannot begin to understand or control. I can't begin to fathom what may lay ahead of us in the distant future, nor am I going to write about it here. This piece is going to be a glance in the past of technology, comparing it to what we have today and recording what changes we have made to the ways in which technology has changed how we work.
How was it before? How is it now? What are the main differences?
The history of communication with tech starts in the 1920s with the industrial production of the telephone. While the telephone was officially invented in 1876 it was too new and unreliable to be publicly distributed. However, in the 1920s many people (mainly rich) were now able to get their hands on a phone. Before this development in communication people had to send messages through telegraphs with Morse code - which is essentially using two different sound patterns (dashes and dits) to make a message, so we have definitely come a long way. The development of the telephone was significant because while not everyone could read or write, even less were able to communicate through Morse code. The telephone decreased the skill needed to send messages from one place to another and meant that there could now be a lot more jobs in the transmission and apprehension of messages.
The main downfall of the telephone in later years towards the 1940s was the delay between attempting to call someone and actually being put on the line with them. This was due to this process having to be done manually, which was fortunate for people who worked in telephone operator jobs, but much less fortunate for the busy businessman trying to make a sale. However, In the 1950s, phone operator jobs were shut down worldwide as they were no longer necessary, leaving a lot of those workers (mainly women), unemployed. Even though further development of communication seemed to only take jobs away from people, development of technology rarely actually takes jobs without providing two more in the process. This trend of providing more jobs continues to this day, as the majority of jobs today have been created due to the technological advancements in the last 100 years.
In the 21st century, phones are more widely available now than they were in the 1920s, as 69% of the world has access to a mobile phone, shown by statistics researched by Statista just two years ago in 20191. Not only has the accessibility of phones increased in the last 100 years, but the user experience is exponentially better than it was before. Due to the accessibility of phones being increased so rapidly, it has allowed for millions of jobs to be created, some of these jobs are; Repair, Tech support, Language tutor, App tester, task taker and hundreds of thousands of others. In more recent years hardware and software that would have been tightly compacted in a desktop computer, can now fit snugly in a mobile phone. This has allowed for applications such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Snapchat to allow people to communicate, in ways that people could have never imagined only a century ago. One very specific job that has been created due to the advancement of technology is ad creators on social media sites (this is like job creation-ception as ad development is a job that comes from a social media site, which is only possible due to the advancement in mobile technology). Ad development can be an extremely high paying job that rarely even requires the employer to move from their personal desk. Not only that, but all of this can be done on a mobile phone, so hypothetically a person in 2021 wouldn't even need to leave their bed to make £70k a year as a marketing specialist. If this doesn't show how far telephones and communication has come since the 1920s I don't know what does.
How was it before? How is it now? What are the main differences?
The term “automation” was first introduced in the automobile industry in about 1946, to identify the increased use of automatic devices and controls in mechanized production lines. This also happens to be a time when automation seemed to be taking over many people's jobs. As I mentioned earlier, technology has not been taking jobs but has instead been providing more of them. One of the main arguments that people usually use for technology - or in this case, robotics - taking over jobs, is that there is an increase in unemployment rates worldwide. While last year this has proven to be true, increasing from 4% to 5.1% -most likely due to Covid- the complete opposite has been true for the last 100 years. For example, in 1995 unemployment rates were 12%, compared to 2019 (before the Covid crisis) when unemployment rates were at an all time low at just 3.9% at a time when the technology and automation industry had never been so big.
If automation and unemployment did have the cause/effect relationship that society has been trashing it for, then right now, the world would be in chaos with people chasing jobs like bloodthirsty animals.
If automation and unemployment did have the cause/effect relationship that society has been trashing it for, then right now, the world would be in chaos with people chasing jobs like bloodthirsty animals. Fortunately, that's not the case and many people can live a life of financial freedom and safety, thanks in large part to automation. Before automation, especially during the industrial revolution, work was extremely dangerous, so dangerous that loss of limbs and even life, was normalised in the workplace. In a time like this, the phrase “it cost me an arm and a leg” may have been taken a bit too literally. Unfortunately this is no joke and jobs were genuinely just that dangerous. One of these jobs was vehicular assembly; cars, buses, ships everything and anything that needed to move, or just moved on its own, was created by hand, carried over a shoulder and welded together with temperatures of over 1,500 degrees Celsius. These jobs were more than enough to leave even the most ‘macho’ of men with permanent damage, on the other hand, jobs in this field were accessible to everyone (even children!) and made up the majority of jobs during the industrial revolution.
As you may know, jobs in this field are pretty much extinct today, and safety regulations have been put in place to prevent humans from performing such manual labour. Instead, robotics perform all of the heavy lifting and leave all the safe stuff to humans- how can anyone complain about that? (apart from the robots of course).
In conclusion, I have covered one of the most world renowned technologies to date - the mobile phone - and its impact on communication in the past and present, as well as showing how beneficial it is for us today. Additionally, I have covered the hot topic of robotics and automation, and how it has also affected the work and environment as well as why robots definitely don't want your jobs. I believe that no matter how much technology we gain, people still fail to consider both sides of the story. As a student making arrangements to go into the field of tech, I believe it's necessary for me to have the rigour to research complex arguments, and the passion to enlighten others on common misconceptions. If you know someone who may have a misunderstanding of the world of tech, share this with them, and hopefully, one step at a time people all around the world can become more informed about what technology is really about, and how it is improving the way we work.
1 "Number of mobile phone users worldwide 2015-2020 | Statista." 23 Nov. 2016, https://www.statista.com/statistics/274774/forecast-of-mobile-phone-users-worldwide/. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.