Communication is essential to successful business operations, and the technology of the twenty-first century has become completely integrated in business interaction. Company networks are faster, the Internet has become a powerful force, and wireless communications have transformed the way business is performed. Even the latest technologies, such as cloud computing, are being used to allow businesses to operate globally without sacrificing security or limiting user access.
Are we facing a future of stagnant income and worsening inequality? Even more ominous for workers, the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine.
They believe that rapid technological change has been destroying jobs faster than it is creating them, contributing to the stagnation of median income and the growth of inequality in the United States.
And, they suspect, something similar is happening in other technologically advanced countries. Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence, according to Brynjolfsson, is a chart that only an economist could love.
In economics, productivity—the amount of economic value created for a given unit of input, such as an hour of labor—is a crucial indicator of growth and wealth creation.
It is a measure of progress. On the chart Brynjolfsson likes to show, separate lines represent productivity and total employment in the United States. For years after World War II, the two lines closely tracked each other, with increases in jobs corresponding to increases in productivity.
The pattern is clear: Then, beginning inthe lines diverge; productivity continues to rise robustly, but employment suddenly wilts. Bya significant gap appears between the two lines, showing economic growth with no parallel increase in job creation.
Brynjolfsson and McAfee still believe that technology boosts productivity and makes societies wealthier, but they think that it can also have a dark side: Indeed, they are sometimes accused of being too optimistic about the extent and speed of recent digital advances.
Brynjolfsson says they began writing Race Against the Machine, the book in which they laid out much of their argument, because they wanted to explain the economic benefits of these new technologies Brynjolfsson spent much of the s sniffing out evidence that information technology was boosting rates of productivity.
But it became clear to them that the same technologies making many jobs safer, easier, and more productive were also reducing the demand for many types of human workers.
Anecdotal evidence that digital technologies threaten jobs is, of course, everywhere. Robots and advanced automation have been common in many types of manufacturing for decades. Modern automotive plants, many of which were transformed by industrial robotics in the s, routinely use machines that autonomously weld and paint body parts—tasks that were once handled by humans.
The website of a Silicon Valley startup called Industrial Perception features a video of the robot it has designed for use in warehouses picking up and throwing boxes like a bored elephant.
A less dramatic change, but one with a potentially far larger impact on employment, is taking place in clerical work and professional services.
Technologies like the Web, artificial intelligence, big data, and improved analytics—all made possible by the ever increasing availability of cheap computing power and storage capacity—are automating many routine tasks.
Countless traditional white-collar jobs, such as many in the post office and in customer service, have disappeared. It is this onslaught of digital processes, says Arthur, that primarily explains how productivity has grown without a significant increase in human labor.
But are these new technologies really responsible for a decade of lackluster job growth? Many labor economists say the data are, at best, far from conclusive. Several other plausible explanations, including events related to global trade and the financial crises of the early and late s, could account for the relative slowness of job creation since the turn of the century.
Employment trends have polarized the workforce and hollowed out the middle class. David Autor, an economist at MIT who has extensively studied the connections between jobs and technology, also doubts that technology could account for such an abrupt change in total employment.
At the same time, higher-paying jobs requiring creativity and problem-solving skills, often aided by computers, have proliferated. So have low-skill jobs: That, at least, has always been the pattern. At least since the Industrial Revolution began in the s, improvements in technology have changed the nature of work and destroyed some types of jobs in the process.
In41 percent of Americans worked in agriculture; byit was only 2 percent. Likewise, the proportion of Americans employed in manufacturing has dropped from 30 percent in the post—World War II years to around 10 percent today—partly because of increasing automation, especially during the s.Communication: Technology is being used to simplify communication in a business.
New communication technologies like electronic mails, e-fax, cell phones, videoconferencing tools, text messaging and social networks have simplified the way business owners communicate with their teams and customers. Get the latest science news and technology news, read tech reviews and more at ABC News.
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Bill McBeath speaks at XChain 2: Blockchain for Supply Chain and Logistics Forum. Every business uses technology, and there are several types of technologies used in small businesses worldwide.
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