In this complex world where the advancement of science and technology is reaching its peak, it is no wonder that claims of robots or automation will displace jobs are commonplace. This is validated by numerous reports in recent years where millions of workers will be replaced by robots and automation in other countries while in Singapore, there is a growing trend of companies and schools started to make use of robots to perform certain tasksiii. However, such issue is nothing new as looking at the historical timeline in Singapore, the Second Industrial Revolution which started in the 1980s marked a significant increase in technology sophistication to perform menial tasks and also efficient in manufacturing mass-produced goodsiii (Rodan et al. 2006). Since then, such phenomenon is escalated and the creation of artificial intelligence (AI) became a new concern not just in Singapore but other parts of the world as welliv. As a result, automation and AI will lead to structural unemployment and physical jobs are more likely to turn automatedv. In addition, job polarization will occur and income inequality due to stagnation of median wages may worsen and the economic growth due to the investments and production from robotics may not be reflective of the actual standard of living in an economyvi. From an Economics major’s perspective, the use of current statistics to predict the situation in the future is important and while robots can replace workers in many occupations, it is also certain that it creates new jobs as wellvii. The technical and intellectual skills to develop and maintain robotics itself create new jobs and innovation paved the way for new industries to emerge with jobs that are previously nonexistent. I believe that it is a misconception that AI will replace everything as AI was developed and is continuing to be developed as a technology to augment our lives and amplify our skills or capabilities in many industries. As such, AI can be used to complement many jobs including physical and intellectual jobs. Singapore is facing manpower crunch due to low birth rateviii (insert) and hence, the issue of robots replacing jobs is inapplicable as robots provides a buffer in a case of economic downturn by complementing the workforce in Singaporeix. In fact, the government started to invest in human capital through an increased expenditure on higher education to take on new jobs and rolled out courses for deskilled workers to gain a new skillset to suit the changing economic climate such as the SkillsCredit Future Schemexxi (insert). As such, I believe that rather than tackling the problem of robots displacing workers, our society should this issue in a positive light and an opportunity for workers to upgrade themselves with the help from the government.
iii Garry Rodan, Kevin Hewison & Richard Robison (2006). The Political Economy of Southeast Asia: Markets, Power and Contestation Third Edition Oxford University Press. Chapter 5: Singapore: Globalisation, the State, and Politics. Pg. 140-145