Robots could be bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US

Much was made during the late election about bringing jobs back to the United States from abroad. We need a strong manufacturing base and the jobs that it would bring to help put Americans back to work and to make America great (again). It may actually be happening, but not quite in the manner in which many people or our politicians thought it would.

We’ve all heard the arguments before. Greedy corporations are using what is essentially sweatshop slave labor to make the products that we all use. Workers in some of the poorest nations in the world sign up willingly as there is little other prospect to earn a wage in their country. This helps to keep costs down and reduce the prices of goods, something that not all Americans are comfortable with. That may be about to change, especially when it comes to manufacturing.

Don’t prepare for Trump’s reelection just yet

Many manufacturing companies are indeed considering moving their operations back to the United States but before you start cheering (or preparing for Donald Trump’s reelection) you should know that the work will probably be done not by humans but by robots. While today this may not be economically practical in 15 or 20 years time it probably will be as the cost of building and operating robots will be cheaper than human labor in even the poorest country.

Of course robots are already in the workforce, from helping to build cars to flipping burgers. In may be inevitable that within 100 years many of our jobs will be done by robots. Many of the jobs performed by our parents and grandparents no longer exist or has changed dramatically. In Africa, which has many of the poorest nations and a large number of sweatshops, leaders are hoping that this will usher in a technological revolution there by increasing access to the Internet and creating technical skills that do not currently exist especially in some of the poorest nations in the world. In some African nations Internet access is almost non-existent and if these countries do not catch up quickly they will be left behind. This could have benefits for everyone, not just the US.

This could be a good thing for the world

In many African nations less than 10% of the population has access to the Internet. Nations like Eritrea, Somalia, Niger, Chad, Guinea Bissau, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Guinea and Burundi all have less than 5% of their populations online and 8 more nations have less than 10% online. Only three African nations, Mauritius, South Africa and Morocco have more than half their populations online. It is little wonder why many of the poorest nations in the world reside in Africa and if they cannot get online now they may be left behind in the 21st century. The Digital Divide is getting larger and a manufacturing move away from these countries could have large implications for education and development.

Where does that leave the US though? There is a very real fear here as well that robots will take many of our jobs as well. As technology improves it does seem to inevitable. New careers will undoubtedly spring up and with more people becoming more comfortable with technology the transition here will seemingly be easier. There will also be time to prepare so it will not happen overnight.

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