Robots Are Stealing Your Jobs

When you shake your fist, screaming “They took our jobs!” You can stare at your computer rather than the day laborers standing outside Home Depot.

In an essay posted on Good, Andrew argues that technology is the greatest enemy of the working class. He cites an MIT report that says while high-skilled, high-income jobs and low-skilled, low-income jobs are both growing, a number of middle-class professions that don’t require college degrees are shrinking due to technological advances.

He writes:

Today, a Japanese company called Fanuc, Ltd., has industrial robots making other industrial robots in a “lights out” factory. (That’s the somewhat unsettling term for a fully automated production facility where you don’t need lights because you don’t need humans.) That’s where we’re headed.

It’s not just manufacturing, either. Automated call centers are replacing customer-service agents. Automated checkout stations are replacing grocery-store clerks. When the science of computer vision advances sufficiently, we’ll have algorithms, not humans, evaluating X-rays at airport security checkpoints and screening user-generated content for sites like Facebook.

At least we’ll be able to find work again once robots work out that whole enslavement plan.

Automation Insurance: Robots Are Replacing Middle Class Jobs [Good via BoingBoing]


Edit Your Comment

  1. YouDidWhatNow? says:


    In all seriousness, if you honestly lose your job because of the day workers hanging out at Home Depot…you seriously needed a new career anyway.

    • peebozi says:

      yea, a carpenter is such a shitty, skill-less job.

      you can pay for a trained carpenter or you can pay for an untrained carpenter. just so happens, retailers, developers, property management companies and shareholders for publicly traded companies aren’t as concerned about quality or safety as a homeowner may be. also, they prefer to pocket the savings they would otherwise pay for taxes, matching taxes, workers comp insurance, any kind of retirement benefit or paying a decent wage

      • Mecharine says:

        Wasn’t that happening before “immigrants too our jerbs” became popular? Im sure there have been skill-less hacks that have been white as American Bread doing the same jobs that the immigrants are doing now, I don’t believe much has changed in that respect other than country of origin.

        • OnePumpChump says:

          No, because blaming it (correctly, in some cases, but even then they’re still not the root cause) on immigrants is centuries old, possibly millennia.

      • The Marionette says:

        Not that it’s not a job that is skill-less, but I’ve seen day laborers do a lot better of a job than some “licensed” places.

        That aside, as far as computers/robots taking over our jobs. Well……. isn’t that a bit excepted in this day and age? Not sure if you people back in the 40’s realize that a lot of things run on computers and it’s no surprise that computers can be used to replace people in some jobs. Besides, a business is pretty much there to make money, if they don’t have to pay a human to do a job and instead can have a robot do it then you better believe they will convert.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      Because people who are working menial jobs have the time and money to get training for a new job, or even to look for one.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      And what about when you lose your career to a robot?

  2. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    Who fixes the robots when they break and who writes the code for the robots to do a specific job. That’s right…other robots…where the hell is my tinfoil hat. People think Sci-fi (SyFy) movies are rubbish and not based on what could be…

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      Um…I think you’ve watched WestWorld one too many times…

      • haggis for the soul says:

        Is it West World where Yul Brynner dances with Blythe Danner or is that Future World? Either way, that’s the most hilariously awful moment in movie history.

  3. Ouze says:


  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I was scared until it hinted that the TSA would soon be out of a job.

    I think most of us would accept some sacrifices to rid us of the TSA.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      They’d just automate the TSA processes…you’d still have to do all the meaningless BS they have you do, you’d just do it for the benefit of entertaining a computer instead of random village idiots.

      Like the “war on drugs” the government has invested too much into the stupid antics the TSA goes through to admit it’s all a waste of time and money.

    • Jasen says:

      I’d rather have a robot grope my colon than a TSA lackey.

  5. mandy_Reeves says:

    At the local grocery chains…about 6 of the registers are now automated self check outs.

    Mark my words, next to go the way of the Dodo are bank tellers. It’s going to be a room full of ATM type machines.

    • nova3930 says:

      Self checkout is the logical result when minimum wage and/or benefits are pushed to the point it becomes cheaper to install and maintain a machine….

    • JustLurking says:

      I ALWAYS avoid the self checkout because it’s sole and singular purpose is to put people out of work. Efficiency, be damned.

      There have been times close to quitting time at the supermarket where I have been in line behind the slow, 300-pound crazy, two-tons-of-cat-food-buying lady and strongly encouraged to use the self checkout and I have refused. And when they ask why I tell them it’s because they are designed to put the checkers out of work. Mostly, I get blank stares, but I do see an occasional light bulb going off with some of them.

      Self checkout is bullshit, plain and simple.

      If my supermarket ever goes to a self checkout only process, I will find a new place to shop.

      • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

        I agree with the sentiment, but in this particular case I don’t feel like this is something I need to pay someone else to do. I prefer to pump my own gas, repair my own electronics, change the filters and bulbs on my cars, and do (most of) my own landscaping. Does this mean I’m a bad person for not paying other people to do these things?

        Yes, technically we don’t pay cashiers or gas station attendants, but someone does. I’m not going to try to argue that we’d see a cost reduction if they cut employee hours, but that’s not always the point. I know my wife and I will never put the cans on top of the fruit or eggs, and can pack them in ways that may make sense only to us. (Not all frozen items belong together; those destined for the big freezer in the basement get their own bag, while those going in the kitchen freezer can go with refrigerated items. This makes it easy to take one bag down to the basement.)

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I agree. I always go to self-checkout because I can do it more efficiently. I know how I want things to be done, and it’s just a lot easier if I do it myself.

        • CBenji says:

          I often wait for the cashier myself. Unless I only have one or two items that is. Between where they want you to place your items, and everything else it is almost more of a pain in the ass to do it yourself. I usually go to store for a lot of crap.

    • MongoAngryMongoSmash says:

      Don’t know where you shop but where I shop there were three cashiers before self checkout lanes were installed and there’s three cashiers since. They’re not putting cashiers out of jobs. They’re simply supplying more cashiers without hiring anyone else.

    • hotcocoa says:

      When I (briefly, thank goodness) worked at Bank of America, people would love to quip that we would be replaced by ATMs.
      Little does the average person realize all the back office stuff that a person does that cannot be automated…processing bonds, issuing money orders/cashier’s cheques, dealing with business accounts, etc. Some things just still need people to verify them before they can go through. And then there are the customers that fear/don’t understand computers and refuse to deal with anything but another person.
      So no, tellers will not be going the way of the Dodo any time soon.

    • TasteyCat says:

      There are about half a dozen where I shop as well. Almost never a line, and I can do the scanning myself as fast as any cashier. There’s usually somebody there who insists on bagging for me, though. No thanks, I’ll do it myself. Why do you think I’m in the self checkout line? Problem is when there’s some moron who has no clue about technology but insists on using it anyway. Either that or the people who can’t count to 12 or less and/or fewer. But with enough open registers, I typically don’t have an issue.

      At least this particular store gets it right. The one I used to go to had only 2 open out of 4 half the time. It was ridiculous and stupid. If there’s a line, open the other registers, idiots. 4 registers can be monitored by 1 person, just like 2 can. All you’re doing by having less open is annoying me. I complained to corporate, but they didn’t care.

  6. blinky says:

    Automated call centers have been around for decades; people still just push 0. Self-checkout has disappeared from my grocery store, K-Mart and Costco, much to my chagrin. And I’d rather have a computer looking at my paunch than some screener who will take a snap to laugh at with his girlfriend.

    Perhaps we can get jobs fixing robots howerver.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      People still push 0 because telephony is a pox upon the human race. It’s only purpose seems to be to confound the caller and make it as difficult as possible to find any option vaguely related to what you need to get done…and then either leave you on hold for the rest of your life, or hang up on you.

      Not sure what to tell you about the self-checkout…other than if they’ve gone back to all human-powered checkouts, those checkouts must be more efficient/cost-effective/something than self checkout.

  7. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Automation is actually a boon to a society not focused on profit.

    Eliminating all monetary principles and living in a system based on managing resources would propel us into a world of high-level automation, which would allow the human race to pursue more intellectual endeavers.

    • White Speed Receiver says:

      Like watching Glee and American Idol and reading Twilight books?

      I think a more automated world puts us closer to 0OW MY BALLS!

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        If it were free to pursue your own personal interests, and worked a fraction of the amount you do today, do you think people would be sitting on the couch watching TV all day? Some, maybe, and surely we would all enjoy some TV from time to time.

        Me? I would be visiting other countries, sailing, mountain climbing, learning to play guitar, painting, and enjoying the best things the world has to offer. TV would be a lark, but never something I would care a great deal about.

        • HideYaKidsHideYaWife says:

          Ha, more like spending more time on the consumerist comment boards.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Ha, good one.

            But truthfully, what would ideally happen is that manufacturers would actually focus on customer satisfaction since profit would never become a factor. Pride in the product you sell would be king. Customer Service, only working maybe 4 hours a day 2-4 days a week, would be empowered to help every customer since customer service would no longer be viewed as a cost center. Customers, who would no longer be worried about price, would simply choose the product that best met their needs.

            It’s truly amazing to think how our lives would be different when the looming fear of money isn’t there. When decisions were based on quality of life and not how much it costs.

        • Rectilinear Propagation says:

          Actually, can you imagine how much better TV and movies would be if they didn’t have to worry about money and advertisers?

          • TheGreySpectre says:

            Actors generally work pretty long hours when making something. Remove the pay aspect and while you still will have people that want to act, you will be hard pressed to release shows weekly. development time for most shows and movies would triple or quadruple as the actors would want time to hang out just like the rest of us.

            Also while I would love to think that humanity would pursue more intellectual endeavors, we wouldn’t. Think about how many kids spend their summer vacations watching TV. I have known far to many people who want to do nothing to believe we would become more intellectually focused. Compare the version of the internet in “Ender’s Game” to the actuality of the internet. The internet could very easily be used for intelligent discussion to unite humanity, but instead it is used for porn, and 4chan is one of the biggest message boards on the internet.

            With everything automated we would become much more like the people in WALL-E

    • quijote says:

      Well, I think profit is what technology creates. But advances should profit everyone. That’s not really possible when the means of production are only owned by a few people.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        No, I’m talking about the elimination of money and going to a resource-based economy.

        – There is enough food to feed the world, but not everyone can feed their family
        – There is enough raw materials to let everyone have a plasma TV, but not everyone can afford it
        – There are enough resources to grant every human an education, yet many still don’t read

        The reason is due to hoarding, because of the inate desire for profit, and truly in our world the requirement of profit. You can’t survive without making money, and so the goal becomes to make enough money. Eliminating that mindset coupled with increased automation means we are no longer slaves to money and we become freer to pursue admirable goals.

        • DeepHurting says:

          Yes, but how will I lord my genetic superiority over the Plebes when everyone can drive a Hummer?

          Seriously though, the oneupsmanship of humanity is what’s driven the technological advances we enjoy today.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Who says “oneupmanship” goes away when there is no money? That concept is set apart from money, and actually proves the point that a resource economy would work. Since for many being successful at what you do it more important than the money, it stands to reason that without money we would still have great inovators.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      I think it highly unlikely you can get more than 30-40% to pursue the intellectual endeavors. The other 60-70% will be out smashing our shit because they don’t care.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Not…really…. As it stands, the mast majority of people want to be productive.

  8. balthisar says:

    I was at Fanuc just the other day (North America, where they build robot systems). There’s more to a robot system than just the metal castings that form the robot arm. It’s the mechanicals that are mostly robot made (and the circuit boards, etc., as in every industry). Just as in autos where the body shell is mostly robot made, you still need people to do a lot of what really counts in delivering an end product. Wasn’t “robots are stealing our jobs” a false meme from the early 1980’s?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Robots have indeed been taking our jobs since the 1980’s. But the reality is they took my job and gave it to a robotics engineer instead.

  9. Truthie says:

    I would strongly prefer robots to the current crop of airport security personnel. I can almost guarantee robots would be more courteous, professional, and effective. (Even Bender.)

  10. tungstencoil says:

    Technology doesn’t eliminate jobs, it changes them:

    We used to have a secretary pool, and then it was a desktop publishing group. We used to have horse cobblers, and then it was auto line workers.

    My job quite simply didn’t exist as a job 15 years ago in an appreciable way, 20 or 25 years ago in more than just research and an esoteric field, and pretty much not at all before that. The real problem is folks who don’t or can’t keep up with the changes.

    This isn’t a bad thing.

    • thor79 says:

      Exactly…it’s darwin’s survival of the fittest in the job market. If you don’t adapt you die off. If you don’t learn new skills that can’t be replaced easily by machines, expect to lose your job to a robot.

      and I’ll leave this here:

    • Total Casual says:

      What happens when AI reaches the level where it can replace humans in intellectual jobs? I hope I’ll be retired by that point, but it may happen during the working lifetime of the readers here, including myself. It won’t matter how much effort we put into keeping up with changes. When the machine thinks five times faster than you, and doesn’t demand a salary, who will be “employed”?

      Huge social changes will be happening. My view of the future: there won’t be any Terminators, but humans will become obsolete & useless for almost any job.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        My view of the future: there won’t be any Terminators, but humans will become obsolete & useless for almost any job.

        If the future is that no one has to work anymore then it has to end up the way Loais described it. If 0% of the population is earning any income there’s no point in charging anything for goods and services, right?

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Amen, brother!

          I greatest fear we should have with that is that society comes to a crash because we didn’t transition properly.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          It could be like in Star Trek, where there is no currency and no one is paid – they do the work for the intrinsic value in working and accomplishing things.

    • evnmorlo says:

      Most of those who would have been secretaries don’t have new and better jobs, but work at Walmart or McDonald’s for half the wages.

      • haggis for the soul says:

        No, they became administrative assistants and were given management responsibilities for secretarial wages. Progress!

    • OnePumpChump says:

      The funny thing is, with no social safety net, it actually can eliminate jobs, and the people who filled them along with them.

    • El-Brucio says:

      The problem is that technology eliminates more jobs than it creates. A tech worker who manufactures an auto-cashier for a retail job in a week has just eliminated a cashier’s job forever.

      And yes, they need people to maintain these machines …. but one person can maintain several machines. There is still a net loss of jobs. This trend is only going to continue. Hopefully governments will come up with adaptive policies for these things, but I predict times of great turmoil to come – the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow.

      • AnthonyC says:

        Ah yes, a net loss of jobs. That’s why unemployment is so much higher, on average, than it was decades ago.

        Oh wait, it isn’t. Well, it is right now, during the recession, but it wasn’t a couple of years ago and won’t be a couple of years from now. Truth is, we’re very good at figuring out more things we want, and hiring people to do those things. Increased efficiency breeds profit; profit feeds demand; demand creates jobs.

  11. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Drew Carey made this argument way back in 2008.

    I think the author of this article is a bit slow on the draw.

  12. Snarkster says:

    This has been going on for a while.

  13. DragonThermo says:

    I have avoided the self-checkout lines because it takes me longer to figure out the machine and figure out what the machine *exactly* wants me to do and where to place items after I scan them than it does to have a specialist know knows what they are doing do it.

    I’ve only used self-checkout lines at Home Depot when I have only a couple items and the regular register has people with cartloads of stuff. Still, trying to get the machine to work takes about as long as a specialist clerk processing a cartload of stuff. Once I didn’t place an item *exactly* where it wanted me to place it after I scanned it and the computer locked up and refused any interaction.

    • Arcaeris says:

      I’m glad you don’t use them, because you’re the kind of person that annoys me when they do use them. The self-checkout takes me 30 seconds to get in an out. I’m not a wizard, I’m just used to the prompts and know what it wants.

      However, I’m always blockaded because hogging all the machines are like 40 people who do not know how to use them and they spend 10 minutes checking out. They’d save time by using the checkout line, but NOOO they don’t want to wait behind someone else and instead watse everyone’s (even their own) time,

      Anyway, thanks for not being retarded.

  14. DragonThermo says:


    In short, if you think your job can be done by a trained monkey, it can be done by a robot.

  15. Fiftyville says:

    Nonsense. There will always be a demand for humans…

    as filler in the Soylent Green factory.

  16. TheGreySpectre says:

    I figure I made a good choice as an electrical engineer as it will be quite a while before we have robots that can design other robots. And when we do no one will have a job anymore.

  17. denros says:

    What about those of us working high-skilled, low-income jobs?

  18. Aph says:

    Don’t we create both the jobs and the robots?

    I’d like God to come down and smite us for taking up all the precious souls.

  19. physics2010 says:

    With an aging population and declining birth rate in Japan this is the perfect time to introduce the robots.

  20. saltyoak says:

    then robots can buy the stuff?

  21. Duckula22 says:

    Pass those savings onto us, it’s the least these greedy corporate bastards can do.

  22. RogueWarrior65 says:

    Blah blah blah…whatever, man. Robot don’t go on strike. They don’t bitch about having to work till their 62 instead of 60 (which used to be 65). They don’t organize behind your back or rather there isn’t some do-nothing sh*t-for-brains union boss who claims that they all voted to organize. They don’t sue you for sexual harassment. They don’t get workers comp and they sue everybody if they get a splinter. In short, the don’t think they are worth more than they really are. If you’re doing the same job day after day, year after year, I’ve got news for you: You ARE a robot. If you want your old job back, you’d better start acting like one.

  23. RogueWarrior65 says:

    Blah blah blah…whatever, man. Robot don’t go on strike. They don’t bitch about having to work till their 62 instead of 60 (which used to be 65). They don’t organize behind your back or rather there isn’t some do-nothing sh*t-for-brains union boss who claims that they all voted to organize. They don’t sue you for sexual harassment. They don’t get workers comp and they sue everybody if they get a splinter. In short, the don’t think they are worth more than they really are. If you’re doing the same job day after day, year after year, I’ve got news for you: You ARE a robot. If you want your old job back, you’d better start acting like one. And what’s this about “middle” class? Since when are such jobs being done by middle class? Again, this is the lower class flunky thinking he’s more important than he really is.

  24. Eli the Ice Man says:

    Robots….FROM MEXICO!

  25. PortlandBeavers says:

    Haven’t they been saying this since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution?

  26. esc27 says:

    The problem is advances in productivity do not benefit workers. You either end up doing more work for the same pay in the same time period or lose your job outright. In an ideal world, your hours (but not pay) would be cut and the newly freed hours would go to someone else to help them keep their jobs.